M A I N   N E W S

Shimla declaration to be released today
MPs get reference to J&K deleted
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 3
The Indian delegation stood up to assert the stated position of the country that no bilateral issue would be discussed at the SAARC forum and prevailed upon the participants to get the mention of Jammu and Kashmir deleted from the final draft of the Shimla declaration.

The declaration could not be released today as the issue after the objection raised by the Indian members had to be referred to a subcommittee, comprising five MPs each from India and Pakistan, to iron out the differences and redraft the declaration. The entire exercise delayed the finalisation of the declaration, which will now be released tomorrow.

Leading the Indian group Dinesh Trivedi strongly objected to the line in the draft declaration that India and Pakistan should explore all options for the final settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir question agreeable to the peoples of India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. He pointed out that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and not a separate entity. It could not be negotiated at any forum by even the government as the people of India had not given the right to it to do so. As such Jammu and Kashmir could not be mentioned separately.

He wondered how the name of Jammu and Kashmir found a place in the draft. It should not have been there at all. There was animated debate among members of the subcommittee which ultimately decided to stick to the Bhurban declaration which had no mention of Jammu and Kashmir.

Trivedi also managed to drive home the point that when the issues were to be resolved bilaterally there could be no third party intervention even from the SAARC countries. The same principle was applicable to areas like water sharing and energy and the countries could resolve all such issues bilaterally.

The Indian delegation also had reservations on the issue pertaining to subsidies. Since the subsidies were to be administered under the framework of the WTO the SAARC countries had no option but to follow suit. The delegation prevailed upon the forum to get all objectionable portions deleted from the final draft.

The delegates from Pakistan were pre-occupied with and very vocal about Kashmir. They raised it at every opportunity, maintaining that it was a core issue. At one point a member from Bangla Desh wondered if the SAARC forum was a platform to discuss only Indo-Pak issues. One of the Sri Lankan delegates said Sri Lanka was in a crisis and needed the support of the global community, particularly the SAARC countries.



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