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India wants permanent ceasefire: Yashwant Sinha

January 01, 2004 21:18 IST

India on Thursday expressed keenness to convert the ceasefire along the Indo-Pak border a 'permanent' one even as it urged SAARC countries to emulate Bhutan in flushing out insurgents from their soil.

The ceasefire now in place is open-ended and not bound by any timeframe, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha told reporters at Delhi airport before emplaning for Islamabad for the SAARC Summit.

"India is interested in making this a permanent ceasefire. It is incumbent on both countries to ensure that the ceasefire holds. It is a comprehensive ceasefire because it includes the international boundary, the Line of Control and the Actual Ground Position Line in Siachen," he said.

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A special IAF Boeing 737 aircraft carrying Sinha became the first Indian aircraft to on Pakistani soil after a gap of two years. India and Pakistan had snapped air links from January 1, 2002, following the terrorist attack on Parliament.

Sinha is accompanied by National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, joint secretary in the External Affairs Ministry Arun Singh and senior officials. He was seen off at the Delhi airport by Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner Munawar Bhatti and senior Indian officials.

Asked whether there will be any bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani leaders on the sidelines of the SAARC summit, Sinha said, "There will be meetings. There will be a number of occasions for official meetings and social gatherings. Apart from that, no other meeting has been planned."

On whether India will take the initiative for such a meeting, he said, "I am speaking as of 2pm now. No such meeting has been planned".

India is hoping for a positive response on its four proposals, including holding technical level talks for a bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Observing that terrorism remains a major issue, he said while there were several agreements against the menace, including a convention against financing of terrorists, "We do not have any framework of understanding" on it. "What we are trying to do is to incorporate all those within the arrangement we have with SAARC."

Referring to the military action launched by Bhutan to flush out Indian insurgent groups from its territory, he said, "Clearly, it is an example worth emulating" by other SAARC countries.

Going into the factors that had led to a drop in cross-border infiltration, he said these included weather conditions, "our own alertness and preparations, which are vastly better than they were before and the ceasefire."

He hoped the summit would focus on signing the Social Charter, agreeing on a framework for a South Asia Free Trade Agreement, agree on an Additional Protocol on Terrorism and come out with a concrete programme of action to fight poverty in South Asia.

Sinha said efforts would be made to resolve differences before the three-day summit commences on January 4 at the two meetings of the SAARC foreign ministers starting on Friday.

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