M A I N   N E W S

Fresh move to improve ties with Pakistan
* Talks on air, rail links
* Resumption of cricketing ties
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 22
India today made yet another diplomatic coup vis a vis Pakistan with the announcement of 12 major proposals to improve relations with the difficult neighbour. The proposals pertain largely to an area that is anathema to President Pervez Musharraf: people-to-people contact.

The decisions were taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which met today under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, who attended the CCS meeting along with other committee members, announced the following 12 proposals, cleared by the CCS:

  • Civil aviation links should be restored "along with overflights". India has suggested holding of another round of technical talks for the purpose and the Director General of Civil Aviation will get in touch with his Pakistani counterpart to fix the dates for the meeting.

  • Technical-level discussions for the resumption of the Samjhauta Express. Significantly, India has conveyed to Pakistan that resumption of the rail link will be taken after successful completion of negotiations on resuming civil aviation links and overflight.

  • Resumption of bilateral sports events, including cricket. Mr Sinha went to the extent of including games like polo and kho kho in the list of bilateral sports events.

  • Holding of visa camps by High Commissioners in different cities through mutual consent. The periodicity and other details could be decided through diplomatic channels.

  • Senior citizens (above the age of 65) to be permitted to cross the Wagah border post on foot. The facility to be extended only to individuals, not groups.

  • Delhi-Lahore bus service capacity to be increased by adding more buses. All buses to run in a convoy. DTC to talk with its Pakistani counterpart in this regard.

  • Establishment of links between the Coast Guards of the two countries on the pattern of Directors-General of Military Operations. Details to be worked out through diplomatic channels. The two Coast Guards to have flag meetings before and after the fishing season.

  • No arrest by either side of fishermen within a certain band of the Arabian Sea. Details of the area could be worked out.

  • The government of India to provide free treatment to another batch of 20 Pakistani children. India has so far treated 16 Pakistani children free of cost and a large number of applications are pending with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

  • Further increase in the strength of the high commissions in the respective countries to be considered after all steps are taken.

  • A ferry service between Mumbai and Karachi.

  • Two new bus services: Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Khokhrapar (Rajasthan)-Munabao (Sind). Rail link may also be considered for Khokhrapar-Munabao.

Resident Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Khan was briefed about the proposals before they were made public.

He was called to the Ministry of External Affairs and was given details of the proposals by Mr Yashwant Sinha.

An important feature of the Indian proposals is that all the dozen proposals are focused on people-to-people contact, in stark contrast to Gen Musharraf’s record on Kashmir.

The Indian strategy is clear: to woo the Pakistani public and win their hearts and minds while handing out a stern message to Pakistan that it would not succumb to any blackmail or threat on the issue of Kashmir and will not make any compromise on combating cross-border terrorism.

Mr Sinha made it clear that the talks on the resumption of the Samjhauta Express — which Islamabad is so keen on could take place only after the successful completion of negotiations on the civil aviation links and overflight.

The minister also clarified that the Indian proposal for a Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service was a reiteration of pre-Agra Summit talks and did not in any way amount to India accepting the Line of Control as the International border. Visa and other issues for this bus service are yet to be worked out.



Pak promises positive response

Islamabad, October 22
Pakistan today said it was disappointed that India’s fresh proposals to normalise ties did not include its offer to resume dialogue, but promised to respond positively to any measure “genuinely designed to improve relations.”

A Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman in a brief statement said Islamabad had taken note of a series of proposals announced by India.

He said that Pakistani response to “any proposal that is substantive and unconditional and genuinely designed to improve relations will as always be positive”.

The spokesman, however, said that Pakistan was “disappointed that while making these proposals, India has simultaneously reiterated its rejection of Pakistan’s offer to resume substantive and sustained dialogue to resolve all issues, notably the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”

“We hope that India will reconsider its position on the resumption of the composite talks as some of the proposals made by India are already integral to the composite dialogue process.” — PTI 

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