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|February 21, 1999||
Vajpayee, Sharief sign Lahore Declaration
George Iype in Lahore
India and Pakistan today signed a historic declaration and a memorandum of understanding to usher in peace, stability, and security in South Asia.
Heralding a new era of bilateral relations, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharief, signed the declaration at the end of the Indian leader's path-breaking visit to the city.
Both countries have agreed in the declaration to intensify efforts to resolve all pending issues, including the vexed Jammu and Kashmir problem, and take immediate steps to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons.
They have also decided to give each other advance notification of ballistic missile flight tests and accidental or unexplained use of nuclear weapons to avoid the outbreak of a nuclear conflict.
The memorandum of understanding identifying the complex issues between the countries was signed in the presence of the two prime ministers by Indian Foreign Secretary K Raghunath and his Pakistani counterpart Shamshad Ahmad.
Vajpayee and Sharief also issued a joint statement outlining the measures that will be adopted to put the declaration and MoU into practice.
"The Lahore Declaration and the MoU reflect that my visit to Lahore has been successful. It was a brief visit, but it has considerably helped shrink the distance between Lahore and Delhi," Vajpayee said later.
Sharief said, "The ice has been broken between the countries. Our dialogue will strengthen peace and prosperity in South Asia."
But both refused to divulge details of the declaration or the MoU.
Asked if India is willing to address the question of self-determination for the Kashmiris, Vajpayee said: "It is very difficult to say what solution will emerge on the issue."
Though Vajpayee and Sharief touched upon the controversial topic of signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the wake of the nuclear tests by both countries, they said no decision has been taken on it.
The Lahore Declaration was born after three rounds of talks between Vajpayee and Sharief on Saturday and Sunday. The prime ministers -- after a gap of more than a decade -- discussed threadbare all issues ranging from Kashmir and confidence-building measures to trade and economic co-operation.
We share "a vision of peace and stability between the countries and of progress and prosperity of their peoples", the declaration said. "Durable peace and development of harmonious relations and friendly co-operation will serve the vital interests of the people of the two counties, enabling them to devote their energies for a better future," it said.
Stating that both India and Pakistan are committed to promote an environment of peace and security in the region, the declaration said the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, will be taken up.
It said the nuclear dimension of the security environment of the two countries adds to their responsibility to avoid conflict.
It said India and Pakistan would take immediate steps to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons, and discuss concepts and doctrines to evolve measures to build confidence in each other.
Committing the two countries to the principles of the United Nations Charter for peaceful co-existence, the declaration said they would implement the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit.
Pledging themselves to the objectives of universal nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, they promised to take a series of CBMs to improving the security environment in the region.
While both India and Pakistan will refrain from intervening and interfering in each other's internal affairs, they will intensify their composite and integrated dialogue process for an early and positive outcome of the agreed bilateral agenda.
Stating that both countries will promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, the declaration said they would condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Asked if they discussed cross-border terrorism, Sharief said: "We have decided that we should stop blaming each other for anything and everything that happens in both India and Pakistan."
The prime ministers said their foreign ministers would meet periodically to discuss all issues of mutual concern, including nuclear-related issues.
While the two sides will undertake consultations on issues relating to the World Trade Organisation, they will determine areas of co-operation in information technology, particularly the problem of the Y2K bug.
India and Pakistan will also appoint a two-member ministerial committee to examine humanitarian issues relating to civilian detainees and missing prisoners of wars.
Even as Vajpayee left Lahore after his momentous bus trip, he extended a warm invitation to Sharief to visit India.
While the dates of Sharief's visit will be finalised soon, officials believe his reciprocal bus journey will help further stabilise bilateral relations between the neighbours.
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