M A I N   N E W S

India, Pak agree on slew of CBMs
Discussion on Kashmir today
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 27
India and Pakistan today agreed on a number of fresh and forward-looking Confidence Building Measures in fields of communication, humanitarian, diplomatic, sports and people-to-people contacts and also decided to come out with a Joint Statement tomorrow after the two-day Foreign Secretary-level talks conclude tomorrow.

Sources disclosed that some eight to 12 fresh CBMs were likely to be announced tomorrow pertaining to extending the already existing hotline between the DGMOs other links between the armed forces of the two countries and intensifying sporting links.

Sources said both sides presented a comprehensive framework of CBMs which included release of civil prisoners and fishermen, reopening each other’s Consulates in Mumbai and Karachi and raising the strength of the diplomatic missions from the present sanctioned figure of 75 each to 110 each.

On the Khokhrapar-Munabao bus/train link which India had proposed on October 23 last, the Pakistani side suggested to opt for a train instead of a bus link as the tracks were already in place and that a train could carry far more people.

India has tentatively agreed to the idea and would give its detailed response to the Pakistani side in due course.

The talks between Foreign Secretary Shashank and his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokhar, which marked the resumption of the Composite Dialogue process between the two nations after a gap of six years, were held in a positive manner and both sides insisted that the process of confidence building was on the right track.

Rather unusually, the two sides held separate briefings for the media on the day’s talks. However, both sides’ spokesmen were upbeat about the talks.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, who is also a part of Mr Khokhar’s delegation, told reporters at a separate briefing in Pakistan High Commission that Kashmiris were a principal party to the Kashmir dispute which had to be resolved keeping in view the aspirations of the people of the state.

Mr Khan said Pakistan’s position on Jammu and Kashmir was “very well known” and it was also aware of India’s position on the matter , Khan said the two sides had to “explore” ways to resolve the issue substantively.

“This is a historic moment and the leadership of both sides are trying to come to a solution that is acceptable to people of India, Pakistan and Kashmir,” Mr Khan said, adding that the two sides will discuss “all dimensions” of the issue tomorrow” and make the dialogue process “result-oriented”.

Mr Khan also said that India and Pakistan were “very close” to arriving at a decision on increasing the diplomatic staff at their missions and the decision would be announced tomorrow. He said both sides discussed issues related to nuclear, conventional and conflict resolution.

On the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus link, the spokesman said the issue was discussed and if any decision was to be made it would be announced tomorrow.

MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna said: “We already have some CBMs on the table. We also have the results of the Expert-level meeting on nuclear CBMs which took place in Delhi last week and proposals arising out of that. Then there are other proposals aimed to better communications, and others arising out of that. Then there are other proposals aimed to better communications, and others arising out of humanitarian concerns. These are proposals which are aimed at increasing mutual trust and confidence and creating better relations between the two countries in keeping with our commitment.”

In response to a question whether any ideas or proposals were rejected by either side, Mr Sarna said: “The ideas have been proposed. There were proposals and ideas exchanged from both sides and let us see how this process carries forward tomorrow. We are hopeful that the process is going to move forward. The talks have been held in a very constructive and positive atmosphere. And this should continue tomorrow.”

An insider who is privy to the discussions Mr Khokhar had with the Kashmiri separatist leader told The Tribune this evening that just about every separatist leader told the Pakistani Foreign Secretary that something was “cooking up” between India and Pakistan and they were being kept out.

Mr Khokhar is understood to have told the separatist groups that there was no roadmap for peace between India and Pakistan as far as the Pakistani foreign office was concerned and whatever was happening was happening in an open and transparent manner.

The insider said at these meetings Mr Khokhar attempted to mediate a patch-up among the various separatist groups. “But so far he has failed. nobody is ready. ”

Mr Khokhar today met Mr Shabbir Shah, Chairman J&K Democratic Freedom Party, Mr Yaseen Malik, Chairman J&K Liberation Front and Sheikh Abdul Aziz, Chairman, People’s League.

Mr Khokhar is scheduled to meet Mirwaiz Omar Farooq tomorrow morning just before the two sides start discussions on the ticklish issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Mirwaiz has been authorised by Hurriyat Conference Chairman Maulana Abbas Ansari to speak on behalf of the Hurriyat. The first Kashmiri separatist leader Mr Khokhar had met soon after his arrival here yesterday was Syed Ali Shah Geelani with whom he had discussions for more than two hours.

Mr Khokhar’s prime objective at these meetings was to brief the separatist leaders on the nature of his talks with his Indian counterpart Shashank and taking their inputs for talks on Jammu and Kashmir.


Khokhar to return today

New Delhi, June 27
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar is curtailing his visit because of political developments in Islamabad and returning by tomorrow evening. — TNS

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