M A I N   N E W S

Foreign Secys struggle to iron out differences
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, December 31
SAARC Foreign Secretaries today struggled to iron out differences over the definition of terrorism and on a draft treaty that would pave the way for free trade among the seven member countries.

Meeting here to work on the agenda for the three-day summit beginning here on January 4, Indian Foreign Secretary D. Shashank and his counterparts discussed a number of key issues such as enhancement of trade, finalisation of SAARC social charter, intra-regional strategy for poverty alleviation and fight against terrorism.

Briefing the media on the deliberations of the first day of the two-day talks of the SAARC Standing Committee meeting chaired by Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar, Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan admitted differences among the member countries on the issue of finalisation of the framework treaty on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) to promote intra-regional trade.

“There are residual differences among the members on concessions to be accorded to the Least Developed Countries. Hopefully they will be resolved,” he said while referring to the demands made by Bangladesh to give more time to it and other smaller countries to implement the SAFTA provisions.

On the issue of finalisation of additional protocol on terrorism to be added to the SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism signed in 1998, Khan said discussions were on to finalise the protocol which was aimed at freezing the funding to the terrorist organisations, much on the line of the rules framed by the UN after the September 11 attacks.

On persistent questions whether there were any differences, he said “additional protocol is being discussed right now. The discussions encompass all dimensions and aspects.”

While Khan was not forthcoming on the reason in the delay in finalising the protocol, officials said there were differences among the member states on the definition of terrorism.

They said while Pakistan, which is opposed to terrorism in all forms and manifestations, wants a distinction to be drawn between freedom movements involving struggle to attain self-determination from foreign occupation and terrorism, India and Sri Lanka insisted that all acts of violence should be treated as terrorism.

Asked about his country’s stand on terrorism in view of the allegations by India that Pakistan encouraged cross-border terrorism, Khan said Islamabad was for “expeditious” finalisation of the protocol.

“Pakistan fully subscribes to SAARC regional convention on suppression of terrorism,” he said. — PTI


India moots fresh peace proposals
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 31
Two days before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s departure to Islamabad for attending the 12th SAARC summit (January 4 to 6), the Government today unveiled two fresh confidence building measures (CBMs) vis-a-vis Pakistan and announced specific dates for implementing two proposals made by New Delhi on October 22, 2003.

The two new proposals announced by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) are : (i) Removal of restrictions on reciprocal basis on movement of mission personnel imposed since December 2001, and (ii) further increase in the size of respective missions of the two countries from the present 55 to 75.

Besides, the MEA also announced technical level talks for establishment of bus links between Munabao (Rajasthan) in India to Khokhrapar (Sind) in Pakistan in the week of January 12 and for the bus link between Srinagar and Muzafarrabad in the week of January 19.

The two proposals had formed part of the 12 CBMs External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha had announced on October 22 after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

Besides, authoritative sources in the government told The Tribune that India had agreed to the Pakistani suggestion of a meeting of Indus River Waters Commissioners on the Bagliar project in Jammu and Kashmir.

The meeting is likely to take place in the middle of January. 


Not many Pakistanis hopeful of future

Islamabad, December 31
Fewer Pakistanis are optimistic about their country’s future than a year ago, a private group survey has found.

Gallup Pakistan said 41 per cent of respondents expressed hope about 2004, as against 47 per cent hopeful in a similar survey last year.

It said nearly half of Pakistanis in the latest poll were either unsure about their future or believed their situation would not change in the new year.

The survey, which quizzed around 1,200 Pakistanis, asked them: “Would you say the coming year will be better, worse or the same as the one which is just ending?”

Only 12 per cent said the new year would be worse. Twentyeight per cent said it be just like 2003 and 19 per cent said they did not know how 2004 would unfold.

The survey was part of a global poll conducted by Gallup International in 60 countries across five continents, Gallup Pakistan chairman Ijaz Shafi Gilani said.

Pakistan figured 25th on the hope index, while India proved more positive, ranking seventh. — AFP

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