India and Pakistan hope to resume their composite dialogue once the Indian parliamentary election ends, Pakistan's envoy to the US has said.
Jalil Abbas Jilani also said in a talk at Harvard University that there was increasing awareness in both countries that there can be no military solution to their problems. The News International newspaper reported that Jilani spoke on "Pakistan-India Relations, The Way Ahead" Monday. It was the inaugural event for the Harvard Kennedy School's annual South Asia Week. Giving a brief overview of the main problems affecting India-Pakistan relations, Jilani said positive changes had taken place and concrete steps had been taken to improve bilateral ties.
A career diplomat who served in India as charge d'affaires from where he was expelled in 2003 during high tensions, Jilani talked about the growing desire for peace. "There is also a realization that no country can achieve its economic goals while in a state of tension with its neighbours," the daily quoted him as saying.
He said there had been "good progress on confidence building measures like the Jammu and Kashmir bus service, cross-border trade and meeting points for divided Kashmiri families". He said student exchanges needed to be increased.
Jilani was hopeful that the resumption of the composite dialogue, suspended since January 2013, and Pakistan's grant of the Most Favoured Nation status to India would start to progress once India's general elections get over. India's ongoing parliamentary elections, which began April 7, end May 12. The results are expected May 16, with most pundits predicting that the BJP will finish ahead of everyone else.
Trade between the two countries was steadily improving, Jilani said. It now stands at $3 billion. "If the barriers are lifted, it could rise to over $10 billion over the next few years," he said. The visa regime between the two countries needs to be liberalized, Jilani added.
He said it was unfortunate that India had introduced stringent rules that made it difficult for the poor in remote areas in Pakistan to apply for visas as these had to be submitted online. Pakistani expatriates were required to renounce their Pakistani nationality to apply for an Indian visa on their foreign passports, he said. "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is all for establishing a visa-free regime between India and Pakistan, and we hope we can move towards this goal over time."
The need of the hour was to engage meaningfully and work towards removing the causes of tension between the two countries, he said.