M A I N   N E W S

Talks positive, PM to visit Pak
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Foreign ministers of Pakistan and India on Wednesday agreed to carry forward the composite dialogue and hold the fifth round on an eight-point agenda, which includes Kashmir, trade and anti-terrorism, in mid-July.

It was also announced that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would visit Pakistan later this year. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has also accepted an invitation to visit New Delhi next month.

Addressing a joint news conference at the conclusion of the talks, Qureshi said his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee described their negotiations as fruitful, friendly and candid. Mukherjee said: “With the new political leadership of Pakistan, I find a strong commitment to strengthen the peace process and carry forward the dialogue for mutual progress and development and make South Asia a region of peace and stability.”

Mukherjee said India was keen to discuss and resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, terrorism and cross-border infiltration through bilateral dialogue. Even during his interaction with entire spectrum of Pakistan’s new leadership, he emphasised the need for enhancing economic ties by promoting trade and investment and creating a conducive atmosphere.

It has also been decided to expand railway links and arrange more facilities for this purpose in order to give a fillip to trade. He referred to Indian import of Pakistani cement and said trade relations would be strengthened in other fields as well.

Qureshi said there has been considerable improvement in the situation on the line of control in Kashmir in terms of cross-border infiltration and border firing. He condemned recent acts of terrorism in Jaipur and said both countries have mutual interest to cooperate in combating this menace that threatens peace, stability and development.

He parried a direct answer to a question whether the new civilian government supports the four-point formula advanced by Musharraf to resolve the Kashmir issue but said the dispute should be resolved in accordance with UN resolutions and as per the wishes of the people of Kashmir.

But he hastened to add that the democratic government was open to innovative ideas for making further progress. He said the CBMs taken on Kashmir have been implemented to mutual satisfaction and may be expanded further.

Both reaffirmed their commitment not to enter into any arms race including nuclear. Mukherjee said Indian nuclear and missile programme was continuing to meet its own peculiar compulsions and not to ignite any race with Pakistan.

On Siachin, they accepted that there was slow progress but Pakistan said it has proposed a package to expedite it. They expressed their desire to improve visa regime in order to facilitate greater travel and promote people-to-people contacts. Both sides inked an agreement to provide consular access to the prisoners of each other’s countries.

Mukherjee said he was encouraged by the response he got from new Pakistani leadership and hoped that normalisation process would gain further impetus under the new dispensation.

Earlier Mukherjee called on President Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and discussed matters of mutual concern.



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |