Thursday, August 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

SAARC agrees on combating terror
India rejects Pak dialogue offer

Kathmandu, August 21
In what is being considered a diplomatic success for India in its fight against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, SAARC Foreign Ministers today accepted New Delhi’s proposal to hold a ministerial meeting of the member-countries in the near future to formulate a joint plan of action to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, even as India rejected Pakistan’s offer for talks without pre-conditions.

The 23rd meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers, which began this morning, also accepted Pakistan’s suggestion that senior officials of the SAARC countries could meet at a convenient date along with their legal advisers to chalk out a strategy to deal with the scourge.

India was represented at the meeting by External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha while Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inam-ul-Haq represented his country.

In his intervention at the meeting, Mr Sinha stated that he agreed with Pakistan that senior officials of the SAARC countries should meet at an early date to deliberate on the issue of terrorism.

"What we are looking at is to bring the SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373," Mr Sinha said.

India also agreed to host a meeting of SAARC countries on traditional medicine. Some member countries were of the opinion that the scope of the meeting should be expanded to include diseases like HIV and AIDS.

Mr Sinha also emphasised the need for acceleration of negotiations on the fourth round of SAPTA (South Asian Preferential Trading Arrangement) and the conclusion of the SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) Treaty by the end of this year.

Asserting that infiltration and cross-border terrorism was continuing in Jammu and Kashmir, India today rejected Pakistan’s fresh offer for resumption of dialogue without pre-conditions, saying that “appropriate conditions” for it did not exist.

“Infiltration is continuing. We have said that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf must fulfil his commitments to end it. If it is not under his control (to do it), he should tell us clearly so that we can do something together,” External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha told reporters on the sidelines of the SAARC Foreign Ministers’ meeting which opened here today.

He was asked about Pakistan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inamul Haq’s remarks that Islamabad was “ready to start the dialogue today” if New Delhi agreed to it.

“We would like to see evidence of the fulfilment of the commitments which President Musharraf has made. The appropriate conditions for talks will arise only thereafter,” he said.

The Pakistan minister stressed that while his country hoped that dialogue would be resumed soon, these had to be held “without any pre-conditions”.

Conceding that infiltration could be taking place from Pakistan, he said. “We have always said there is no way to absolutely seal the border. Individuals, probably of divided families, even some rogue elements and some renegades might be crossing the Line of Control.”

Mr Sinha said he had exchanged pleasantries with Mr Haq. “One doesn’t have to be secretive about it.... Civility is a sign of culture and there is no reason for anyone to depart from cultural traditions, especially for an Indian. There was nothing more than that”.

The minister said India was not against dialogue with Pakistan. “We want to have talks. Twice in the past India took significant steps (Lahore and Agra initiatives) in this direction and even strived for it. But there was no outcome. The only result was that cross-border terrorism increased from that side. So naturally, we had to put this as an issue before Pakistan.”

The prolonged Indo-Pak standoff threatened to overshadow the 23rd meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers today as the seven members of the regional grouping, including Pakistan, vowed to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and make the association a viable tool for the economic development of the area.

The two-day meeting, which will finalise the dates of the next SAARC summit to be held in Islamabad next year, was inaugurated this morning by Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. PTI, UNI


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