M A I N   N E W S

Sinha flies into Pak as air links are restored

Islamabad, January 1
External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha arrived here today to attend the two-day meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers beginning tomorrow to finalise the agenda for the January 4-6 summit of the regional grouping.

Mr Sinha flew into Islamabad by a special Indian Air Force flight that also marked the resumption of air links between the two countries after two years.

India had snapped air links with Pakistan after the December 13, 2001, terrorist attack on Parliament in New Delhi.

Mr Sinha was accompanied by National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra.

Talking to reporters at the airport soon after his arrival, Mr Sinha noted that both countries had taken several steps to restore normalcy in their relationship and India had only yesterday announced fresh measures in this regard.

Asked if there would be bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani leaders on the sidelines of the summit, he said nothing had been fixed so far.

Mr Vajpayee will arrive here on January 3 for the summit. He will fly back home on January 6 after the closing ceremony.

A Pakistan International Airways flight, carrying 40 passengers, arrived in New Delhi from Lahore.

Earlier, an IAF Boeing 737 aircraft carrying External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, National Security Adviser Brijesh Mishra and senior Indian officials reached Islamabad, the first India flight to touch Pakistani territory since the December 2001 attack on Parliament.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is to operate its service from Karachi to Mumbai tomorrow with 161 passengers booked on the Airbus A300 flight.

Two Indian Airlines flights carrying mediapersons will fly to Islamabad tomorrow.

Besides resumption of flights between the two countries, two Air India flights to the Gulf and Europe flew over Pakistan following the opening up of the air space to Indian aircraft.

An Air India flight to the Gulf from Delhi and a New York-bound flight from Mumbai via London flew over Pakistan air space this morning.

Meanwhile, the 13th SAARC summit will be held in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka in January next year.

The SAARC Standing Committee of Foreign Secretaries reached a consensus on the holding of the next summit in Dhaka at the conclusion of its two-day meeting here this evening. — UNI, PTI



Terror protocol finalised

Islamabad, January 1
In a major breakthrough ahead of the SAARC summit, foreign secretaries from the seven-member grouping tonight reached an understanding on additional protocol on terrorism and narrowed down differences on a regional free trade treaty.

Announcing that a consensus had been reached on the additional protocol on the 1987 SAARC Convention on Terrorism, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar told reporters here that the text of the protocol had been cleared by the Standing Committee meeting comprising the foreign secretaries of the grouping and referred to the Council of Ministers.

The protocol dealt with adopting UN Security Council resolutions on terrorism aimed at freezing funding to terrorist organisations active in the region.

“There was a progress on the text of the protocol. The text cleared by the Standing Committee has been sent to the Council of Ministers,” Mr Khokhar said.

He said during the past two days, there were extensive consultations among the foreign secretaries of the seven countries to reach a framework agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).

“Significant progress has been made but consultations are continuing. We have referred the matter to the Council of Ministers,” he added. — PTI



India, Pak exchange N-facilities lists

New Delhi, January 1
For the 13th consecutive year, India and Pakistan today exchanged upgraded lists of nuclear facilities and installations under a bilateral agreement which was signed in 1988 and came into force in January, 1991.

In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office invited A. Gitesh Sarma, the Political Counsellor of the Indian High Commission, and handed him over its list. In New Delhi, an External Affairs Ministry official handed over the list to a senior Pakistani diplomat.


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