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India-Pak cross-LoC trade from Oct 21
Ashok Tuteja writes from New York

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh greets Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at a meeting in New York
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh greets Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at a meeting in New York on Wednesday. — PTI

In a major confidence-building measure, India and Pakistan have decided to commence cross-LOC trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot roads on October 21 after Islamabad reassured New Delhi of its January 6, 2004 commitment not to allow misuse of the Pakistani territory for anti-India activities.

The leaders of India and Pakistan met here on the margins of the UN General Assembly meet last evening and brought out a joint statement saying that the two countries would soon discuss the modalities for opening the Skardu-Kargil route.

This was the first meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan's new President Asif Ali Zardari. As the two leaders came face to face at the Millennium Plaza Hotel here, Zardari hugged the Indian leader, describing him as the ‘father of modern India’. Briefing reporters on the nearly 90-minute meeting, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon said the two leaders were without aides most of the time, discussing the entire range of relationship and how they proposed to carry it forward. They were satisfied with the quality and nature of the discussions.

The joint statement said the two countries would also open the Wagah-Attari road link and the Khokrapar-Munabao rail route to all permissible items of trade. They would also continue interaction between their Planning Commissions to develop mutually beneficial cooperation, including in the energy sector. A special meeting of the joint anti-terror mechanism would be held in October to address mutual concerns, including the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, for which New Delhi has blamed Pakistan’s ISI. The mechanism, established in September 2006, has hardly made any headway in the last two years.

The two leaders were of the view that the border ceasefire, which has been violated frequently by Pakistani troops in recent months, should be stabilised. To this end, the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) and sectoral commanders would stay in regular touch.

The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries would schedule meetings of the fifth round of the composite dialogue in the next three months which would focus on deliverables and concrete achievements. Both Singh and Zardari acknowledged that the peace process had been under strain in recent months, agreeing that violence, hostility and terrorism have no place in the vision they share of bilateral relationship and must be visibly and verifiably prevented.

‘’Severe action would be taken against any elements directing or involved in terrorist acts. President Zardari reassured Prime Minister Singh that the government of Pakistan stands by its commitments of January 6, 2004,’’ the joint statement said. They declared their determination to defeat the forces that have tried to derail the peace process. This would allow the deepening of a constructive dialogue for peaceful resolution and satisfactory settlement of all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

Singh congratulated President Zardari on his election and the victory of democracy in Pakistan. He expressed the hope that this would pave the way for a profound transformation of the bilateral relationship so that their two countries could work together on their shared objectives of peace, prosperity and security. They welcomed the several positive outcomes of the four rounds of the composite dialogue, which have brought their people, businesses and institutions closer, while permitting sustained efforts to be made to resolve all outstanding issues; these gains need to be consolidated.

‘’They agreed to work for an early and full normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan, on the basis of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and non-interference,’’ the joint statement added.



Zardari nuts over Sarah

“Gorgeous,” this is how Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari described Sarah Palin when she met him. “You look so gorgeous. Now, I know why the whole of America is crazy about you,” Zardari said, while receiving Palin,at the Millennium Hotel. “You are so nice,” 44-year-old Palin, a former Miss Wasilla runner-up in Alaska beauty pageant, responded. An aide of Zardari then told the two to keep shaking hands for the cameras. “I'm supposed to pose again,” said Palin, who has energised the Republican Presidential nominee John McCain's camp. “If he's (aide) insisting, I might hug,” 53-year-old Zardari replied, for which Palin smiled politely in response. The conversation was captured on a camera and telecast later. — PTI



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