M A I N   N E W S

Indo-Pak nuclear CBM talks on right track
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 19
India and Pakistan today held the first round of talks here on nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs) and agreed to take the process forward, while the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this evening to discuss the issues involved.

The first-ever nuclear CBMs talks, which were held in a "cordial and constructive atmosphere", appeared to be on the right track as sources in both the sides told The Tribune that they were working on a joint statement likely to be issued at the end of the two-day talks tomorrow - a reflection of the successful nature of the talks.

The purported joint statement may also contain reference to some specific CBMs the two countries can start working on immediately, the sources said.

Today's talks stretched to four hours, including a working lunch, and specific progress was made on advance notification to each other on missile tests by the two countries.

Authoritative sources also told The Tribune about two more areas of broad agreement between the two sides: (i) to work together on this subject in multilateral fora; (ii) and upgrading communication lines for strengthening communication in security and nuclear fields.

The sources in the Pakistani side, who were visibly happy at the warm reception they got and the extremely cordial meetings their delegation members had with External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, National Security Adviser J. N. Dixit and Foreign Secretary Shashank, said the discussions held on nuclear CBMs during these talks would come up for review and further action during the Foreign Secretary-level talks here between the two sides on June 27-28.

Later in the evening, Dr Manmohan Singh convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) at his. Apart from the CCS members - Union Ministers for Home, Defence, External Affairs and Finance and National Security Adviser J. N. Dixit - Foreign Secretary Shashank, Army chief N.C. Vij, Intelligence Bureau Director K.P. Singh and RAW chief C.D. Sahay attended the meeting.

On today's talks, MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna read out the following "agreed" eight-line statement: "The talks were held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere. Both sides approached the talks in a positive framework, aimed at taking the process forward, and making them result oriented.

"The two delegations identified areas of convergence, including in the context of multilateral fora. They also exchanged views on their respective security concepts and nuclear doctrines and agreed to elaborate and work towards CBMs. The discussions will continue tomorrow.”

The sources said New Delhi’s basic approach was to understand Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine and related issues and develop measures, which reassure and not take away confidence. The Indian strategy was to send out positive signals and allay any apprehension of nuclear conflagration in South Asia.

The Pakistani delegation is led by Mr Tariq Osman Hyder, Additional Secretary in the Pakistan Foreign Office and assisted by Mr Jalil Abbas Jilani, former Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi and at present Director-General of South Asia.

The other members of the Pakistani delegation are Mr Masood Khan, the Foreign Office spokesman who is also looking after the UN desk, Shuja Alam, Director (Foreign Office), Group Captain Khalid Banuri, Deputy Director, Strategic Plans Division, and Khaleel-ur Rehman Hashim, Deputy Director (Foreign Office).

Mr Sheel Kant Sharma, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, heads the Indian team. The Indian delegation includes Mr Arun K. Singh, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) in the MEA, and officials from the Department of Atomic Energy and DRDO.

After the talks and a working lunch, the Pakistani delegation had meetings with Mr Shashank and Mr J.N. Dixit and also called on Mr K. Natwar Singh. Each of the three meetings lasted about half an hour.

The two sides picked up threads from the February, 1999 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in Lahore when the two sides had held an informal meeting. Under the MoU, the two countries agreed to abide by their unilateral moratorium on conducting further nuclear tests, “Unless either side, in exercise of its national sovereignty, decides extraordinary events have jeopardised its supreme interests.”

Both India and Pakistan, as per the MoU, had agreed to give advance notice about tests of ballistic missiles, take steps to reduce risks of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons and notify each other about accidental, unauthorised or unexplained incidents to prevent outbreak of hostilities between the two countries and work out a mechanism to communicate in this regard.

The MoU also said the two sides would also engage in bilateral consultations on security, disarmament and non-proliferation issues within the context of negotiations on these issues in multilateral fora. 

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