Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: Touched by the hospitality and goodwill it received across the border, a 13-member Indian delegation — the first ever after the Mumbai terror attacks — has returned from Pakistan with a renewed desire for peace between the two neighbours.

The delegation led by veteran journalist and former High Commissioner to Britain Kuldip Nayar visited Lahore and Islamabad reciprocating the visit of a Pakistani delegation headed by noted human rights activist Asma Jahangir in January this year.

The delegation that returned on Thursday met a cross section of Pakistani society, including ministers in the government, leaders of major political parties, representatives of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry and civil society members.

“Both sides agreed that the peace process should be restored at the earliest. People were disappointed because of the cancellation of the Indian cricket tour to that country. The general feeling was that people-to-people contact, cultural and sports exchanges were all the more necessary in these troubled times. There are more voices of peace in that country than ever before,” said Mr. Nayar talking to journalists here on Friday.

More evidence

“We met Minister for I&B Sherry Rehman and impressed upon her that perpetrators of the Mumbai terror strikes should be brought to book quickly. We conveyed that the government must stop such activities from happening from their soil. The authorities told us they were trying to gather more evidence against those involved in the November 26 attacks,” he said.

The delegation included filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, social activists Swami Agnivesh, Hanif Lakdawala, Shabnam Hashmi and Kamla Bhasin, former Foreign Secretary Salman Haider, eminent historian K.N. Panikkar, Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey and JNU teacher Kamal Mitra Chenoy.

Swami Agnivesh pointed out that the people in Pakistan felt that they were a “bigger victim” of terrorism and wanted a joint struggle with India in addressing it.

“They want the two countries to come back to a composite dialogue. The common people want normality in cultural and trade relations. We also met former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who reiterated his commitment to peace with India,” he added.