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NGO FORUM ASKS INDIA, PAKISTAN TO PURSUE PEACE, COMBAT FUNDAMENTALISM

Updated: February 28, 1995 05:00 PM GMT
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An India-Pakistan peoples´ dialogue has urged the two countries to end hostilities, their arms race and religious fundamentalism, and bring peace to South Asia.

Asking for a "people-based solution" to the region´s problems, the meeting said "religious intolerance poses a serious threat to peace and stability."

The dialogue participants recommended the two governments set up a citizens´ group that could move freely across borders to monitor rights violations by security forces.

The meeting discussed the governments´ conflicting claims over Kashmir, militarization, religious intolerance and governance.

Some 90 Pakistanis and more than 100 Indians joined this peoples´ peace dialogue in New Delhi Feb. 24-25, organized by the Pakistan-India People´s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), an association of human rights activists, trade union leaders, social workers, writers and artists.

The convention condemned human rights violations in the region and drafted a 15-point declaration for India and Pakistan to follow.

Tapan K. Bose, one of the PIPFPD founders, said, "Both countries should stop religious intolerance and hatred in society for peace and tranquility."

The declaration urged India and Pakistan to remove myths and prejudices perpetuated in their educational systems, especially through social sciences.

"The two countries should end hostilities to enable the people to build more tolerant and just societies," it said.

The declaration asked the governments to withdraw visa restrictions so the citizens of both countries can visit each other and travel without freely. It also urged removing communication and telecommunication barriers between them.

I.A. Rahman, general secretary of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told UCA News Feb. 24 that "mutual mistrust has halted the progress of science and arts between both the countries."

"Instead of pooling their resources," Rahman said, India and Pakistan "now look to highly industrialized countries for science and technology."

According to Pakistani journalist M.B. Naqvi, fundamentalist forces in both countries are seeking to set the agenda for society and the state.

He told UCA News that in Pakistan, "we have suffered a great deal as a result of the upsurge of fundamentalist forces in attacks on minorities like Christians and Ahmadiyas."

PIPFPD decided to publish a monthly magazine called "Communalism Combat" that would share information on the strategies adopted by fundamentalists in India and Pakistan.

Bose claimed PIPFPD was the first non-governmental effort to find peace between the nations. He also talked of "a war hysteria in Kashmir because of the belligerent governments."

The forum co-founder told UCA News Feb. 24 that peace is possible in Kashmir if Pakistan stops the supply of arms and money to Kashmir militants and India stops human rights violations.

Stressing that war is not a solution to bilateral disputes, the meeting asked the countries for a balanced reduction of forces and "to introduce maximum transparency in the deployment of their forces."

Dinesh Mohan, a nuclear expert at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, said "India and Pakistan have failed to rule out war between them."

"Both countries are repeatedly creating a war psychosis in their people, but peace in the subcontinent can be achieved only by giving up the nuclear option," he said.

"Militarization and the nuclear race by India and Pakistan," he told UCA News, "have resulted in the erosion of democratic values and rights."

END

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