M A I N   N E W S

India, Pakistan agree to more LoC trade, travel* Frequency of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service to be increased * Foreign Secy talks end on positive note, Foreign Ministers to meet in July 
Ashok Tuteja in Islamabad

India and Pakistan on Friday decided to initiate a series of nuclear and cross-LoC confidence building measures (CBMs) as the foreign secretaries of the two countries concluded their two-day talks on a positive note.

Addressing a press conference after their meeting, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir said the two sides had agreed to carry forward the dialogue in a constructive and purposeful manner.

The two foreign secretaries on Friday discussed Jammu and Kashmir and promotion of friendly exchanges, having discussed peace and security, including CBMs, yesterday.

Rao made it clear to the Pakistani side that it would be difficult for the two countries to move forward on the J & K issue under the shadow of the gun and extremist violence. In this connection, she drew attention towards inflammatory statements on Kashmir being made by top Pakistani leaders in the run-up to elections in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). The Indian side also conveyed to Islamabad its concern over continuing infiltration in J & K.

The top Indian diplomat was forthright in telling Islamabad that the ideology of a military conflict should have no place in the 21st century in India-Pakistan relations. This was obviously aimed at conveying a strong message to the military leadership of Pakistan to give up its India-centric approach and rather concentrate on tackling the situation in the restive provinces of Pakistan.

It was agreed that the Pakistan foreign ministers would visit India in July for a review of the dialogue process with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna. The Pakistani Foreign Secretary would also travel to New Delhi prior to the minister’s visit. Indications are that Pakistan would promote Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar to Cabinet-rank.

On the Mumbai terror attacks, Rao made it quite clear to the Pakistani side that it could not be business as usual between the two countries until the trial in the case was brought to a ‘satisfactory closure’. She said India wanted justice for the victims of the attacks.

The Pakistani Foreign Secretary avoided a direct reply when asked whether he still considered the evidence provided by India on Mumbai terror attacks as a ‘piece of literature’, a statement he had made during his visit to India last February, sparking strong reactions. Bashir said Islamabad did understand India’s concern on the Mumbai attacks. He said the issue was being dealt with by the home/interior secretaries of the two countries, adding it needed to be addressed in a collaborative manner.

Over the cross-LoC CBMs, Rao said the two sides agreed to convene a meeting of the working group in the matter for strengthening and streamlining the existing trade and travel arrangements and propose modalities for introducing additional cross-LoC CBMs. The working group, to be headed by joint secretary-level officers on both sides, would meet in July.

The two countries have decided to increase the frequency of the Srinagar-Muzafarrabad bus service, open more trade routes along the LoC, increase number of trading days as well as the validity of travel permits to six months and provide banking facilities to businessmen.

They also decided to set up a group of experts on nuclear and conventional CBMs to discuss implementation and strengthening of existing arrangements and to consider additional measures to build trust and confidence and promote peace and security.

The two countries have in the past discussed nuclear CBMs like prevention of an arms race in the outer space and nuclear disarmament. At the Foreign Secretaries’ meeting over the past two days, they discussed an agreement to prevent any untoward situation at high seas as was witnessed recently in the Gulf of Aden when sailors of MV Suez were being taken to safety. Indian officials said the two sides considered meetings of defence training institutes of the two countries and regular exchanges between defence experts and coast guards personnel. On the nuclear safety issue, India told the Pakistani side that this was essentially the responsibility of every nation. Each country has to take measures to ensure the safety of nuclear sites in the backdrop of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

The Rao-Bashir Exchange
* The Kashmir issue can’t be resolved under shadow of gun, Islamabad told
* New Delhi concerned over tardy progress in 26/11 trial
* Neighbours inch towards visa agreement to facilitate people-to-people contact
* Two sides agree to strengthen cooperation to counter terror 





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