M A I N   N E W S

India, Pak offer new military CBMs
Pak says Balochistan refrain can wreck peace process
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan today confronted his Indian counterpart Shyam Saran on New Delhi’s reaction on developments in Balochistan and categorically stated that this “interference” in Pakistan’s internal affairs could wreck the peace process.

The Indian Foreign Secretary defended New Delhi’s reaction, rubbished earlier insinuations from Pakistani leadership of Indian involvement in the Balochistan violence, and strongly raised the issue of terrorism with an unmistakable suggestion that continued terrorist acts could wreck the peace process.

On the first day of the two-day Foreign Secretary-level talks here which focussed on peace and security, including CBMs, the two sides put on the table some new military confidence building measures (CBMs). The Indian ones focussing on friendlier military-to-military contact, while the Pakistani ones aimed at strategic fallout.

Pakistan pitched for making South Asia an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) free zone and wanted an Indo-Pak agreement on this. The Pakistani side returned Indian proposals on missile CBMs along with its own counter-proposal, suggesting, among other things, that cruise missiles should also be brought into the gambit of last year’s Indo-Pak agreement on pre-notification of missile tests which pertained to ballistic missiles only. The Pakistanis also proposed an agreement on relocation/redeployment of strike corps of the two countries to avert sudden eruption of a war-like situation.

The Indian side handed over two non-papers to the Pakistani side: the first one on an understanding on not to develop new posts and defence works along the LoC, and the second one regarding holding of Brigade Commander-level flag meetings.

The two sides received each other’s military CBMs and agreed to study them and get back to each other.

As expected, Balochistan threw a spanner in the works of the Indo-Pak talks. It was only towards the end of today’s 150-minute delegation-to-delegation level talks that the Pakistani side raised the Balochistan issue. The situation in Balochistan continues to be critical. On January 9, gunmen snatched the official vehicle of the provincial Minister for Mineral Resources Sardar Masood Ahmed Luni from the city’s main thoroughfare. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) mission to Balochistan, led by HRCP Chairperson Asma Jahangir, after a visit to Dera Bugti, expressed serious concerns over the rapidly deteriorating situation in and around Dera Bugti. Given the tense situation, the HRCP predicted an escalation in the scale of armed conflicts in the region, which would cause irreparable damage to the federation’s integrity if the confrontation continued.

In another major people-to-people contact CBM, India conveyed to the Pakistani side its willingness to extend the Munnabao-Khokhrapar rail link down to Ajmer, Foreign Office spokesman Navtej Sarna said. The schedule and dates of meetings over the next few months in terms of expert/technical-level talks as well as talks for the six remaining subjects were exchanged and discussed and the final picture on this will emerge by tomorrow.

In terms of the CBMs, like Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus, the Amritsar-Lahore bus, the Munnabao-Khokhrapar rail link, the successful implementation of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, the opening of the LoC points came up in the review as positive achievements. India’s assistance during the earthquake was greatly appreciated by the Pakistan Foreign Secretary right at the beginning of the meeting.

The issue of early opening of consulates in Mumbai and Karachi and Civil Aviation links were also discussed. India and Pakistan already have in place an agreement in principle to increase the fights to 24 in number and to add one more destination. Media products and their free movement between India and Pakistan also came up for discussion.


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