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LONDON: A "Cross LoC Youth Conference 2018" gathered youth and academics from different regions of both parts of state of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday in London to discuss the issues concerning the region. The conference was part of one-day conference on Kashmir titled "Beyond Borders: Engagement and Dialogue Across Kashmir" organized by a Kashmir based think-tank, The Kashmir Institute, in collaboration with the South Asia Institute of reputed SOAS, University of London.

The organizers had divided the conference in two sessions - "Bridging Divide: Cross LoC Youth Conference 2018" - which was two session round-table discussion under Chatham rules between over a dozen students and scholars representing Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Jammu division, Kashmir division, and Gilgit-Baltistan. The afternoon session of the conference was a public panel discussion titled "Kashmir Beyond Borders: Peace, Engagement and Dialogue Across Line of Control" where Dr. Khalid Wasim (University of Cambridge), Dr. Goldie Osuri (University of Warwick), Dr. Mehroosh Tak (SOAS, University of London), Prof. Zafar Kahan (Formerly from London Metropolitan University), Victoria Schofield (Author and commentator), spoke in a session chaired by Dr. Navtej Purewal (Deputy Director, SOAS South Asia Institute).

In her opening remarks, Dr. Navtej Purewal, the Deputy Director of the SOAS South Asia Institute, thanked ‘The Kashmir Institute’ for partnering with the department in organising such a vibrant conference. "We are really glad to collaborate on this initiative and hope we can take this conversation ahead in near future," she said.

In the youth conference, participants gave the perspectives of their respective regions including sharing their experiences of how they relate to the ongoing conflict of the Jammu and Kashmir. The concluding outcome of the conference was that there has to be more intra-dialogue, regional connectivity within different regions has to increase, people to people contact should be facilitated and the Line of Control should not be seen as detrimental in finding a solution to the pending Kashmir issue. In the later part of the day, the panelists discussed the human rights violations in the Kashmir valley, particularly since the 2016 and why there is need to dialogue between India and Pakistan in order to find a way out for the region's growing problems due to the current political turmoil.

"This was our first joint initiative with the SOAS, University of London and we plan to work jointly in future, to connect more youth from two sides of the divided region and also focus on other aspects of Kashmir. Our work is to facilitate engagement between people of Jammu and Kashmir with each other and the youth conference will be one of our major focuses in coming years as our annual program. We are glad to organize it jointly with a reputed UK university, also where I was a student myself, and the aim is to focus on research on various regions of the state," said Fahad Shah, the Director of The Kashmir Institute, who was present at the conference.