M A I N   N E W S

PM rules out China-type talks on Kashmir
Says Pak must stop cross-border terrorism
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 6
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today shot down Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri’s proposal for having a China-type institutionalised mechanism of Special Representatives-level talks for resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

The government’s decision was conveyed by the Prime Minister to Mr Kasuri who called on him at 7, Race Course Road this evening. While the two sides today agreed to set up a technical-level team for Munabao (India) Khokhrapar (Pakistan) rail link, the technical team for starting a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad is likely to be announced on September 8 at the end of Mr Kasuri’s five-day India visit.

Dr Manmohan Singh also conveyed a firm message to Kasuri during their 30-minute meeting on the need to end cross border terrorism and that Islamabad should stick to its commitment of January 6, 2004 which categorically said no territory under Pakistan’s control would be allowed to be used for fanning terrorism against India.

Top sources told The Tribune that the Prime Minister told Mr Kasuri that the existing mechanism of Composite Dialogue process comprising eight sub-groups, which include Peace and Security, was good enough.

Dr Manmohan Singh told Mr Kasuri that there should be optimum utilisation of the existing mechanism and if there were ever to be a need at some stage to think afresh, the Government of India would be willing to discuss that.

Pakistan had suggested that the two countries should appoint political pointmen on the Kashmir dispute to expedite its resolution, much in the same vein as India and China had recently set up a Special Representatives-level talks on the boundary dispute.

Sources said the Pakistani suggestion was untenable and unacceptable to India because doing so would tantamount to recognition of Kashmir as being the “only issue” between the two countries. New Delhi’s stand is that way back in 1998 the two countries had, by mutual consent, identified eight issues which needed to be addressed and all eight issues were equally important.

Earlier in the afternoon, External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and Mr Kasuri held a joint Press conference at Hyderabad House here — a rarity in Indo-Pak relations — after their hour-long concluding talks.

During this media interaction, Mr Natwar Singh announced a number of decisions that he and Mr Kasuri had taken during their two-day talks. The decisions are as follows:

  • A technical-level meeting to be held in October-November on the Munabao (India)—Khokhrapar (Pakistan) railway link.
  • Indian Coast Guards and the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency to hold talks to discuss a memorandum of understanding for establishing communication links between them.
  • A biannual meeting between the Indian Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers to be held in October.
  • Meetings to be held to discuss conventional and nuclear CBMs.
  • Joint survey of the boundary pillars in the horizontal segment of the International Boundary in the Sir Creek area to be taken up.
  • A special day-bus service to start on special occasions between Amritsar and religious places in Lahore such as Nankana Saheb.
  • Enhanced interaction and exchanges between the two foreign offices including study groups of young diplomats to each other’s country on the anvil.

Mr Natwar Singh said: “While we both are sincerely committed to carrying forward the Composite Dialogue, we should not lose sight of the wise dictum ‘diplomacy provides hope, not salvation’ Even modest progress is worthy of respect. We have made progress in the past two days. My friend, Foreign Minister Kasuri, and I have established rapport and mutual trust.”

He reiterated that India was committed to deepening and widening its engagement with Pakistan in order to resolve all issues and to build a durable structure of peace and stability in South Asia free from an atmosphere of terrorism and violence.

The EAM said cross-border infiltration remained a serious concern and he had reiterated India’s concerns to Mr Kasuri. He recalled the reassurance by President Musharraf that he would not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.

Mr Natwar Singh pointed out that significantly, the ceasefire had held since November 25 last and said that both sides were committed to continuing it. “The first round of the Composite Dialogue has been concluded successfully. The schedule of meetings agreed to in February, 2004 was maintained and the outcome of the dialogue process is positive. We have arrived at several agreements that will take the process forward,” he said.

Mr Natwar Singh made a reference to Mr Kasuri’s invitation to him to visit Pakistan and said that he had accepted the invitation.

Mr Kasuri, while referring to Mr Natwar Singh’s list of agreements reached between them, said “a greater list” would be announced on September 8 when a Joint Statement will be released at the conclusion of Mr Kasuri’s India visit.

Mr Kasuri emphasised on the “centrality” of the Kashmir issue because of which the two neighbours had fought three wars and “a near- war” in 2002. “We will have to tackle with the issue of Jammu and Kashmir because sky is the limit once these two countries start cooperating.”

Mr Kasuri referred to Indian suggestions on conventional CBMs and said: “The most mature way of handling that would be to have expert group meetings who would be studying the proposals submitted by both governments. I think that is a way forward and I also think we can regard that as one of the successes of the meeting with Mr Natwar Singh.

The Pakistani Foreign Minister re-iterated that Pakistan was not “unifocal” in its approach and spoke of the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Natwar Singh added that in their discussions, India had recognized the importance of availability and access to energy resources in the region around South Asia. He disclosed that he and Mr Kasuri had agreed that the Ministers of Petroleum and Natural Gas could meet to discuss the issue “in its multifarious dimensions”.

The two Foreign Ministers also announced that the Indian Consulate in Karachi and the Pakistani Consulate in Mumbai would start functioning as early as possible. Mr Natwar Singh said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New York later this month on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly session to give a push to the dialogue process.


Natwar to visit Islamabad

New Delhi, September 6
External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh will visit Pakistan again.

At a press conference with his counterpart Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, he said the Pakistani minister had extended him an invitation to visit Islamabad, which he had accepted.

This will be Mr Singh’s second visit to the neighbouring country after becoming the Foreign Minister. He, however, did not say when the visit would take place.

Mr Singh, who had served at the Indian High Commission at Islamabad in the seventies when he was an IFS officer, had visited Pakistan in July to attend the SAARC Ministerial meeting. During his five-day visit, he met Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and other top leaders of the country. — UNI

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