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Indo-Pak roadmap for peace
Kashmir on 8-point agenda for May-June talks
V. Mohan Narayan

Islamabad, February 18
India and Pakistan today chalked out a timetable for the resumption of a composite dialogue at various levels in May-June next immediately after the Lok Sabha elections. The Jammu and Kashmir issue would be taken up at the level of Foreign Secretaries.

A wide range of issues and confidence-building measures will be covered by the dialogue, whose progress will be reviewed by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries in August, a joint statement issued at the end of the three days of talks between the officials here said.

Nuclear confidence-building measures would be taken up in May at expert-level talks, said the statement issued after talks between Foreign Secretary Shashank and his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokhar.

“Both sides agreed that they would approach the composite dialogue with the sincere desire to discuss and arrive at a peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides,” the statement said.

Shashank and Khokhar who announced the agreed modalities and timeframe for the composite dialogue at separate Press briefings, will now meet in Delhi in May/June for talks on peace and security including CBMs and Jammu and Kashmir.

The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries will meet again in August a day before the meeting of their Foreign Ministers. The venue of this meeting will be worked out through diplomatic channels.

“Essentially, this is a process that has been going on from 1997-98. We are picking up from this,” Shashank told Indian correspondents and added that “some elements have been included from the MoU “(on the nuclear issue signed by the two countries in 1998).

“We are trying to move together in the spirit of the decision taken at the highest level by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf” and announced in the joint statement issued here on January 6 which spoke of removing the atmosphere of violence, hatred and terrorism.

President Pervez Musharraf earlier announced at a clerics conference that India and Pakistan Foreign Secretaries would meet in May-June immediately after the elections in India which would be followed by a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

“I am hopeful that a solution to the Kashmir issue, in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiris will be found”, he said adding he would never “sell out” the Kashmiri people.

Musharraf said “We have to take the dialogue process forward. We are moving ahead in good manner”.

Shashank said he had invited Khokhar to Delhi for the May-June meeting and that the Pakistan Foreign Secretary had accepted the invitation.

After the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries, the two sides will hold talks in July on the six other issues of Siachen, Tulbul navigation project, Sir Creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields at the already agreed levels. This is at the secretary and other levels.

Expert-level talks on the nuclear CBMs will be held in the latter half of May, the venue for which will be worked out. “The idea is that it should be a comprehensive team. We have conveyed our ideas to Pakistan,” Shashank said.

As part of the CBMs, it was decided to have a meeting between the Director-General of Pakistan Rangers and Inspector-General of the Border Security Force in March/April. The committee on drug trafficking and smuggling will have its meeting in June.

The two sides reiterated their commitment to promote progress towards the common objective of peace, security and economic development for their peoples and for future generations, the statement said.

The Foreign Secretaries reviewed the existing links between the Directors-General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan and agreed to consider further strengthening these contacts, the statement said.

The statement said that the two Foreign Ministers at their meeting would review the overall progress.

Shashank said he had reported the results of the meetings to External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Sinha was “fully satisfied” with the outcome, he said.

He said Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri was likely to visit all SAARC capitals ahead of the SAARC Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

The two sides will also see whether planned meeting with Sinha could be held then or should be held separately.

Asked about the proposed talks next month on starting bus links between Srinagar and Muzaffarad and between Munabao in Sindh and Khokrapar in Rajasthan, he said “These are important developments which are taking place. We are entering the process with an element of sincerity in the hope that we will be able to achieve the results which would be to the expectations of the people.

“But what results will come out, that of course will depend on the actual stage of negotiations”

Observing that the talks were held in a “very cordial and good atmosphere”, Khokhar said the two sides had agreed on a “basic broad map” for carrying forward the peace process.

“Both sides will have to approach it with a great deal of sincerity” he said.

Asked whether the question of India carrying out work for the fencing of the Line of Control (LoC) was taken up during the talks, Khokhar said “This was not an issue that was discussed. This is a subject that will come up in future”.

Khokhar, however, said that Indian argument was that the fence was being built deep inside its territory. “We say that it is not in accordance with the agreements and is certainly not a helpful thing.”

Answering a number of questions on Kashmir, he said “Kashmir is the fundamental issue between Pakistan and India and the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries in May/June will address all aspects of the dispute.”

Referring to the spirit in which the talks were held, he said the atmosphere was much better. Also there was a realisation on both sides that war was not an option and there was no choice but to move ahead for resolution of all disputes.

To a question he said no proposal for appointment of a special envoy for Jammu and Kashmir was discussed. On whether the alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces in Kashmir figured during the talks, he said “If the human rights violations stop ... it will improve atmosphere and help in composite dialogue.”

About the nuclear CBMs’ Khokhar said “We did not go into the substance.” He said the experts will hold discussions and will report to the Foreign Secretaries.

He said the meetings of the DG of Rangers and the IG of BSF, terminated in 1999, were being revived. Similarly the committee on drug trafficking and smuggling that was functional till 1995 was also being revived.

Voicing optimism over future round of talks, he hoped it would ultimately lead to the resolution of all disputes.

Asked about the agreement to a meeting between the top leadership of the two countries, Khokhar said “We stop at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers for the time being...If substantial progress is made the Foreign Ministers will recommend what next step to be taken “.

Asked if the US played any role in the current Indo-Pak peace process, Khokhar said: “I did not see any US delegate at these meetings. They may have played a healthy role. And if they are playing any healthy role I do not think we can really object to it”.

The Pakistan Foreign Secretary hoped that this roadmap “will eventually lead to settlement of all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan in the direction of durable peace”.

To a question on non-inclusion of Kashmiris in the composite dialogue, he said: “I see no difference of opinion between the satisfaction of Pakistan and Kashmiris”.

On whether New Delhi had given any assurance that the dialogue process would not be derailed in the event of change of government after the upcoming elections, Khokhar said “We all know India is going into polls. We did not discuss these aspects”.

He said Pakistan was quite satisfied with the outcome. “This is just the beginning of the process”, he said adding “there is serious agenda before the two sides. Please be patient and let us be hopeful and optimistic”.

Asked about a no-war pact, Khokhar said he saw no reason why such an agreement cannot be formalised between the two countries if they were able to resolve all fundamental differences and disputes.

“.......It (no-war pact) is a logical conclusion of the last one and half years of consultations. It is clear that both sides know that war is not an option for either side”, he said. PTI

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