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India, Pakistan set positive tone for ministerial talks

September 04, 2004 16:53 IST

Setting a positive tone on the eve of a crucial ministerial meeting, the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan held 'productive' discussions on the composite dialogue process in New Delhi on Saturday.

They came up with 'useful' ideas while highlighting the need to 'broaden' engagement between the two sides.

After talks between the two sides led by Foreign Secretaries Shyam Saran and Riaz Khokhar, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters they 'assessed positively' discussions held on eight subjects in the composite dialogue.
"The foreign secretaries agreed the discussions had been productive and had taken place in a cordial and constructive atmosphere. Several useful ideas and suggestions were made by both sides," he said.

The two-hour meeting was followed by lunch at the Hyderabad House.

The eight subjects are peace and security, including confidence-building measures, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul navigation project, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields.

In discussions held at the secretary and other levels in the last six months on these issues, India made 72 proposals to Pakistan, which in turn suggested several steps.

Sarna said the foreign secretaries discussed ways to take the process forward.

"They will report to the foreign ministers with the recommendation that the composite dialogue be continued to further deepen and broaden the engagement between the two sides," he said.

At a separate briefing, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan described Sunday's talks between External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri as 'critical' in ensuring continuity of the dialogue process and CBMs.
On whether Kasuri's remarks in Islamabad on Saturday, hours before his departure for New Delhi could cloud the talks, Khan said, ''There is no question of shattering or clouding this round. All issues, including Jammu and Kashmir will be addressed.''

Khan said Hurriyat leaders would meet Kasuri on Sunday as there has been 'a mutual desire' to meet.

Kasuri had said political will was needed to settle the Kashmir issue, which he felt was not an 'intractable problem.'

He regretted the two countries have not been able to resolve the issue, which has kept them in a state of tension and flux.

In a four-page statement, which was mainly confined to Kashmir, Kasuri iterated Kashmiris should be included in the dialogue process.

"I want to assure Kashmiris they will not be marginalised. We want to persuade India to associate with them with our dialogue," he said, without specifying who should represent the Kashmiris.

"As we meet in Delhi, the whole world will be watching us, hoping we will take credible steps towards conflict resolution, genuine rapprochement and cooperation. Pakistan is fully conscious of its obligations to history, to the people of Kashmir, to South Asia, and to the international community," he said.

On the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus link proposed by India last October, as part of the confidence-building process, Khan said Pakistan was ready to host talks on it at the technical level.

Once dates for the technical talks are decided, the issue will be discussed threadbare, he said, observing that Pakistan was willing to discuss all issues.

"The foreign minister will look at the issue and give directions... We won't have talks before talks," he said when asked about Pakistan denying a visa to an official from Jammu and Kashmir to visit that country.

Observing that Islamabad did not expect a breakthrough this time, he said the aim was to ensure conflict resolution and focus on quality than quantity.

On whether the issue of fencing on the Indian side of the Line of Control figured at the foreign secretary level talks, the spokesman said that everything was discussed.

He said progress had been made in discussions between the two sides on nuclear CBMs, narcotics control and people-to-people contacts.

Indo-Pak Peace Talks: The Complete Coverage

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