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Pak seeks to keep J&K violence out of anti-terror mechanism
Ajay Kaul in Islamabad | March 14, 2007 14:29 IST
Last Updated: March 14, 2007 17:51 IST
Pakistan on Wednesday sought to keep the militant violence in Jammu and Kashmir out of the ambit of the joint anti-terror mechanism even as it agreed with India on putting in place a slew of measures like launch of Kargil- Skardu bus service and an early meeting on the Siachen issue.
At the end of two-day Foreign Secretary-level talks, Pakistan proposed some new cross-LoC confidence building measures, including allowing sports activities and launch of helicopter and postal services between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.
For the first time since the two countries agreed to set up a joint working group on tackling terrorism in Havana in September last, Pakistan openly expressed its opposition to discussing the violence in Jammu and Kashmir within the confines of the mechanism.
At a joint press conference with Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammad Khan said Jammu and Kashmir was 'disputed' and should not be 'mixed' with the initiative, which is between India and Pakistan only.
Islamabad is said to be averse to discussing the violence in Jammu and Kashmir under the auspices of the JWG while New Delhi is keen that the issue cannot be delinked from the problem of terrorism faced by India.
Menon had said on Tuesday that any act of terrorism on Indian soil has to be tackled under the JWG.
The JWG agreed upon by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf had met for the first time recently.
Khan emphasised that they were keen on resolving all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.
He wanted demilitarisation in the state as it would raise the 'comfort level of Kashmir' and was linked to solution of the problem.
"Demilitarisation (in J&K) is a good idea but this is functionally linked to the situation on the ground," Menon said, responding to a question.
Emphasising that demilitarisation would depend on end to threat of violence, he said 'we have the responsibility to protect lives of our people'.
Noting that India was keen to resolve the Kashmir issue, Menon said 'there is political will at the top leadership level' to take the relations forward.
"We are engaged in intensive dialogue on Kashmir and it is our intention to resolve it," he said, while noting that the two countries have never had such sustained and focussed discussions on the issue.
Khan underlined the need for moving from 'problem and dispute management to dispute resolution' and insisted that 'because of lack of political will, we are prevented from crossing the hurdles. We need to seize the opportunity'.
He said the year 2007 is a 'critical year and can prove to be a watershed'.
Stressing the need for 'turning a new page in our relations', Khan said there was a change in the international environment and 'quality of discussions that have taken place strengthen the prospects of success'.
"There is need for moving from problem and dispute management to dispute resolution," he said.
Khan said discussions on Jammu and Kashmir have been taking place at various levels, leadership level, Foreign Minister-level, within the composite dialogue and other channels.
Many ideas have come up which have shaped parameters of these discussions, he said, adding there was need to sustain the peace process, with focus on J&K. During his meeting with Menon, he said the two sides recognised the need for making progress.