M A I N   N E W S

India, Pakistan to continue composite dialogue process
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

The joint statement detailed 13 broad areas of agreement as follows:

Expert-level meetings on conventional and nuclear CBMs to discuss the draft agreement on advance notification of missile tests.

Meeting between railway authorities on the Munnabao-Khokhrapar rail link.

Biannual meeting between Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers in October 2004.

Meeting between Narcotics Control Authorities, including for finalisation of an MOU in October/ November 2004.

Meeting between the Indian Coast Guards and the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency in November 2004 to discuss the memorandum of understanding for establishing communication link between them.

Establishment of committee of experts to consider issues related to trade.

On Siachen, the outcome of the August 2004 meeting of Defence Secretaries would be implemented.

Joint survey of the boundary pillars in the horizontal segment (blue dotted line) of the international boundary in the Sir Creek area.

Meeting on all issues related to commencement of a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

Add a new category of tourist visa in the visa regime between the two countries, and to promote group tourism.

Set up a mechanism to deal with the issue of civilian prisoners and fishermen, effectively and speedily.

Further measures for facilitation of visits to religious shrines, and upkeep of historical sites.

Enhanced interaction and exchanges among the respective Foreign Offices, including study tours of young diplomats/probationers. 

New Delhi, September 8
India and Pakistan today decided to continue the composite dialogue process and took a number of decisions which indicated an important shift in Pakistan's hitherto policy of "Kashmir-first-trade-later".

Besides, sources said, the two sides virtually laid out the roadmap of talks for the next nine months and agreed that the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries would meet in December to prepare the calendar for the next round of the composite dialogue.

The two Foreign Secretaries would discuss overall progress, as well as subjects of peace and security including CBMs and Jammu and Kashmir, in the composite dialogue. They would also work out the schedule of meetings on the other six subjects: Siachen; Wullar Barrage/ Tulbul Navigation Project; Sir Creek; terrorism and drug trafficking; economic and commercial cooperation; and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields, under the composite dialogue.

At the end of Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri's five-day visit to India, a Joint Statement was released which unveiled 13 decisions agreed and approved by Mr Kasuri and his Indian counterpart, K. Natwar Singh, essentially aimed at allround improvement in their bilateral relations and raising the bilateral relations to the next level.

While the decisions include talks for starting Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service and establishment of a committee of experts to consider issues related to trade, the two sides also agreed to explore a new possible area of cooperation: the Iran-India overland oil pipeline via Pakistan.

The two countries recognised the importance of availability and access to energy resources in the region around South Asia. The Ministers of Petroleum/Gas could meet to discuss the issue in its multifarious dimensions.

The two-page joint statement reflected a win-win situation for Indian diplomacy as it mentioned the two sides would "implement the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit" and also reminded Pakistan of the watershed January 6, 2004 joint press statement which spoke of Pakistan's pledge to not to allow any of its territory to be used for fanning terrorism against India.

The two sides agreed to the continuation of high level meetings and visits, including a meeting between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in New York on the margins of UNGA later this month, a visit by Pakistan's Prime Minister to India as Chairperson of SAARC, a meeting between the Prime Minister of India and Pakistan's Prime Minister in Dhaka in January 2005 on the margins of the SAARC Summit.

The joint statement said the Foreign Ministers expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far, and positively assessed the developments in bilateral relations over the past year. They reiterated their commitment to the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and their determination to implement the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit.

The two sides recalled the reassurance contained in the joint press statement of January 6 this year they exchanged views on carrying the process forward in an atmosphere free from terrorism and violence. The Ministers held detailed and substantive discussions and reiterated the confidence that the composite dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides. They agreed to continue with the serious and sustained dialogue to find a peaceful negotiated final settlement.

The joint statement said that the wide ranging proposals on confidence building, promotion of friendly exchanges, and enhancing trade and economic cooperation, made by both sides, were examined and it was agreed that these would be discussed further.

Mr Kasuri left India in the evening for Pakistan on an optimistic note and said it was difficult to set a deadline in international matters. He said there had to be a flexible and reasonable time frame for resolution of all issues between the two countries.

Mr Kasuriís statement assumes significance in view of a barrage of criticism from Pakistan on the slow and tardy nature of talks.

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