M A I N   N E W S

Home Secys iron out ‘creases’, PMs have perfect pitch to play
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Bonding together

n Indian investigators to visit Pakistan in connection with Mumbai probe; Pak panel will also come to India
n Both sides have agreed to set up a “hotline” to share info on terror threats
n Complete lists of prisoners to be exchanged
n India to provide updated information on Samjhauta blasts
n Joint working group to examine a liberalised visa regime.
n Home Secy-level talks to be a biannual affair.

New Delhi, March 29
To use cricketing lingo, the Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan, at the end of their two-day talks, today laid out a perfect ‘pitch’ for their Prime Ministers to ‘play positively’ when they meet tomorrow.

Making a significant progress, Home Secretary of India GK Pillai and his counterpart Chaudhary Qamar Zaman today issued a 17-point statement here. After the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, this was the first secretary-level dialogue between the two countries.

The statement comes just hours before the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani meet tomorrow at the cricket World Cup semi-final being played between the two nations at Mohali.

Importantly, the two top officers will now have a hotline between them for sharing a “real-time information on terror threats”. The statement indicates and sources confirm that a significant progress has been made on several issues that have marred the ties between the two sides in the past.

The issue of 54 Indian prisoners of war (PoWs) believed to be languishing in Pakistani jails since 1971 was also discussed during the meeting. “It will be taken up at the forthcoming Foreign Secretary-level talks,” revealed well-placed sources. The issue of crossborder infiltration and presence of terror camps in the PoK were also raised by New Delhi.

However, the persistent itch of the Mumbai terror attacks has been handled deftly. “Pakistan has conveyed its readiness, on the basis of reciprocity, to entertain a commission from India in connection with the Mumbai terror attack investigations,” says the statement.

Conversely, a Pakistan judicial commission has been allowed and is slated to come before May 15, sources said.

“The National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will continue to cooperate with each other,” says the statement, adding that “Pakistan had provided an update on the ongoing 26/11 trial and investigations.

India also raised the matter of having received voice sample of the Pakistan-based handlers of the Mumbai attackers.

Regarding the hotline, sources said the modalities of the same are being worked out. The Pakistan side has proposed setting up of a hotline. Notably, at the official level, the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries are connected through a hotline.

On Samjhauta blasts, India said it has provided the necessary information regarding the investigations to Pakistan. It was agreed that after a report is filed in the court, an updated information will be provided to Pakistan. Some 46 Pakistani nationals lost their lives in the Samjhuata blasts near Panipat in 2007.

Significantly, both sides reiterated their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed “the need to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice”.

The two sides agreed to exchange a complete list of prisoners on either side by July 1. These are persons, who have completed their sentences on either side and their verification needs to be done by the country of his origin. Judicial committees of both nations would meet from April 19 to 23 in Pakistan. Both sides agreed to set up a joint working group to streamline visa procedures and modalities. One of the important demands is a liberal visa policy for journalists and businessmen

“It will be a SAARC visa” revealed sources, explaining that the visa would not be city specific, as is the case now. For persons, who are more than 65 years -born before the Partition - the visa liberalisation scheme promises multiple entries.




Cricket will spread bonhomie, says Pak minister
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 29
“The people of Pakistan are hoping that the meeting between Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh in Mohali tomorrow would break the ice between the two nations and spread bonhomie. Irrespective of whosoever wins or loses, people of the two nations are bound to win,” said Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan today.

Talking to The Tribune from Islamabad, Dr Firdous said the people of Pakistan were hopeful that the sportsman spirit would go beyond the Mohali stadium . “It is not just the “awam” (people), there is a lot of enthusiasm in the political and diplomatic circles in Pakistan,” she said, adding that she had told people in her country that the match between the two teams should be viewed only as a match.

She pointed out that a favourable atmosphere could be created for a dialogue process to start through cricket, but it could not become the only factor for a sustainable dialogue. “We are hopeful that the match and the luncheon invitation by Dr Manmohan Singh will provide an opportunity for a result-oriented dialogue.”

Dr Firdous said “cricket diplomacy” had brought both Pakistan and India closer. “If we win, we will celebrate, but if we lose we will take it gracefully,” she said

Earlier in the day, Dr Firdous had made it clear that the Pakistan’s Prime Minister was visiting India primarily to watch the Pakistan-India semifinal and "not to discuss the Kashmir issue". She, however, clarified to The Tribune that the two prime ministers "could discuss anything on the occasion".





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