M A I N   N E W S

India, Pak fail to reach agreement
Tackling drug trafficking
Rajeev Sharma and S Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 29
The Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan today discussed at length the first-ever Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between them on prevention of drug trafficking, but failed to reach an agreement on it, sources disclosed to The Tribune tonight.

During the first day of their two-day talks here, the Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan, Mr V K Duggal and Mr Syed Kamal Shah, respectively, covered a wide swath of issues, including release of prisoners lodged in each others jails and Extradition Treaty — a proposal which India has been pushing for years.

The Sarabjit Singh issue also came up for pointed discussion during the day-long talks.

The two-side, however, remained stuck on some crucial issues raised by either side as the other side did not agree to it.

Strange it may seem but it is true that back channel negotiations on an MoU on prevention of drug trafficking between India and Pakistan have taken place in all seriousness in past few weeks.

Just before the Home Secretary level talks were to begin the attempt from both the countries was that the proposed MoU be initialled at the August 29-30 talks in Delhi.

The proposed MoU on prevention of drug trafficking includes, sharing of intelligence and arrest of third country nationals involved in drug trafficking by the signatories. India and Pakistan have, in the recent past, exchanged intelligence in this regard as both the countries are besotted with this menace.

The two countries had been working on the idea that when External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh travels to Pakistan in October this year for talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, the two foreign ministers should formally sign the MoU.

The two-sides had a free and frank discussion on Extradition Treaty, an idea which seems to be closer to New Delhi’s scheme of things than Islamabad, the two sides agreed to continue to discuss in the future meetings.

For India, the focus was on deportation of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Jaish-e-Mohammed founder chief Maulana Masood Azhar, but the Pakistani side said they were not in the country.

The Indian side cited news reports published in Pakistani media itself over the past few weeks, which suggested the duos presence in Pakistan, but the Pakistani side rubbished these reports.

For the Pakistanis the prominent issue was “violation of Human Rights” in Jammu and Kashmir. They also demanded that India should reduce the number of its security personnel deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and begin addressing the Jammu and Kashmir issue more meaningfully.

The Indian response was that New Delhi was quite sensitive and quite respectful towards Human Rights and was doing its best to ensure that the human rights of innocent people in J and K are protected.

On Pakistan’s oft-repeated demand for reduction of Indian security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi’s response was that the deployment of security personnel was directly proportional to the ground situation arising out of cross-border terrorism.

Meanwhile, it is also understood that both sides have exchanged an “updated list” of terrorists and criminals wanted in each others country.

Though there was no official word, the Indian side is understood to have presented an “updated list” 30 wanted terrorists, criminals and those involved in anti-national activities to the visiting delegation and Pakistani side handed a list of 37 wanted criminals living in India.

Union Home Secretary V K Duggal said a joint statement would be issued tomorrow after the conclusion of the talks which are a part of the ongoing Indo-Pak composite dialogue process.

Emerging from an hour-long meeting both the delegations had with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Mr Shah described his talks as “very very useful” and “positive” saying “we are sincerely committed to taking care of the issues and problems that exist.

“If India is peaceful and India is secure, we feel Pakistan will be peaceful. If Pakistan is peaceful, India should feel that it would be peaceful. So, we have to work for this objective and we feel we are in the right direction,” the Pakistan Interior Secretary said.

Both sides said they discussed the issue of terrorism, drug trafficking and that of the prisoners who are in jails in both the countries.

Mr Shah, flanked by Mr Duggal, told newspersons that both President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were “committed” to the dialogue process and “we are moving forward as per their directions.”

“The talks are being held in the light of a joint declaration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf” issued in April this year, Mr Duggal said after the meeting.

Referring to his one-on-one meeting with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, the Pakistani Interior Secretary said he assured the minister that Pakistan was keen to make further progress in bilateral ties with India and that “the joint statement should be an improvement on the one issued after the Islamabad round last year”.

“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we will make very good headway which will be in the interest of peoples of India and Pakistan,” Mr Shah said.

The Indian side is stressing on the joint statement issued by Mr Singh and Gen Musharraf in April this year which refers to the January 2004 joint declaration under which Pakistan’s soil will not be used for terrorism against India, the peace process would be strengthened by implementation of confidence building measures and terrorism would not be allowed to come in its way.

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