M A I N   N E W S

Hurriyat to suggest talks mechanism
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

Mirwaiz Omar Farooq (right) and another Hurriyat leader with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before talks in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Mirwaiz Omar Farooq (right) and another Hurriyat leader with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before talks in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, May 3
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq will suggest a mechanism to the government to carry forward the dialogue process on proposals and issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir.

The Mirwaiz, who led a six-member APHC team at the second round of talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said later that the talks were “frank and fruitful.”

“We agreed to work together to ensure an honourable and peaceful settlement to the issue. To carry this forward, we will evolve a mechanism,” he said.

Prime Minister’s Media Adviser Sanjaya Baru said that Dr Singh was extremely happy with the meeting on a wide range of issues, including the question of greater economic interaction across the LoC.

The Prime Minister told the Hurriyat delegation that they had meeting of minds. “We have a meeting of minds. This augurs well for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, of India and our region,” the Prime Minister said. Dr Singh told the Hurriyat leaders that the government was willing to receive specific suggestions. Mr Baru said it was entirely up to the Hurriyat Conference to propose the mechnism for talks.

Answering queries, the Mirwaiz said issues relating to internal situation ,including “human rights, political prisoners and black laws” were taken up by them at the meeting. He said the external dimension of the problem should be addressed in the “triangular” dialogue process involving the APHC , India and Pakistan.

“We will soon evolve a mechanism to discuss all concepts on merit so that we can move forward,” he said.

The Hurriyat leaders also took up the issues of self-rule and demilitarisation with the Prime Minister at the meeting that lasted nearly two hours.

Asked if the APHC would take part in the second roundtable to be chaired by the Prime Minister in Srinagar on May 25,the Mirwaiz said the matter would be discussed by the amalgam after more details were available. “We will take a decision after details are known about the roundtable.”

The APHC leader had said earlier that the amalgam was not against the concept of roundtable but would not like to be part of a “crowd.”

Though Mr Baru said the Hurriyat Conference would convey its suggestions on the mechanism of dialogue to the Home Minister, the Mirwaiz said that they would get back to the Prime Minister.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Centre’s interlocutor on Jammu and Kashmir N N Vohra and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan were among those present at the meeting.



PM’s Pak visit in August likely
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 3
Preparations for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s maiden official visit to Pakistan, likely to take place in the second half of August this year, have begun with the two sides today deciding on two concrete Line of Control-specific confidence-building measures (CBMs).

The two countries decided to start a second across-LoC bus link - the Poonch-Rawalakot bus service - from June 19 and the much-awaited Srinagar-Muzaffarabad truck service from the first half of July to boost trade. The procedures, documentation and modalities for the Poonch-Rawalakot bus service will be the same as for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service. Initially the bus service will operate on a fortnightly basis.

The Pakistani side is learnt to have offered to the Indians zero taxation and zero custom duty for Indian goods under the inter-LoC trade.

However, Islamabad has said a categoric “no” to allow any linkages between Northern Areas, the last colony in the world, and Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistan Government is not inclined to any people-to-people contacts or trade and business relations between Northern Areas and J&K. Northern Areas are directly administered by Islamabad and at the same time, officially the territory is not part of Pakistan.

As a direct fallout of this policy, the Indian proposal for starting a bus service between Kargil and Skardu has been formally rejected by Islamabad at the two-day India-Pakistan technical -level talks that concluded here today on enhancing interaction and cooperation across the LoC.

The two countries are also understood to be trying to postpone the Foreign Minister-level review meeting of the Composite Dialogue process scheduled to be held here on July 22 and hold these talks in Islamabad in the second half of August.

The idea is to make it a part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s agenda and schedule when he embarks on his first visit to Pakistan. Dr Manmohan Singh also holds the additional charge of External Affairs Minister.

It is understood that it will be an endeavour of both sides to reach agreements on two decades-old bilateral disputes-- Sir Creek and Siachen-- during Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan. The further softening of the LoC with the start of the Poonch-Rawalkot bus service and the nter-LoC truck service would improve the atmosphere just in time for the PM’s visit to Pakistan.

A joint statement issued at the end of the LoC CBMs talks said both sides reviewed the operation of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service and of the five crossing points. Both sides agreed to expedite clearances of applications.

The two sides exchanged indicative lists of goods for trade. It was agreed that the delegations from Chambers of Commerce from either side of the LoC would undertake visits at the earliest to discuss various aspects of the trade.

The two sides discussed modalities for operationalising the meeting points along the LoC as agreed upon earlier. The two sides will report the progress in their talks to their respective Foreign Secretaries who had mandated on January 18, 2006, that the two countries hold technical level talks on enhancing interaction and cooperation across the LoC.

The Indian delegation was headed by Mr Dilip Sinha, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, and the Pakistan delegation was led by Mr Syed Ibne Abbas, Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


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