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Kashmir dogs Natwar-Kasuri talks

September 06, 2004 16:50 IST

India and Pakistan today sharply differed on Jammu and Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism but agreed to continue the ceasefire, negotiate conventional and nuclear Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and carry forward the Composite Dialogue process.

Emerging after an hour-long meeting at the end of the two-day talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh said "differences" in perceptions persisted and India's serious concerns on cross-border infiltration remained.

Standing by his side at a joint press conference, Kasuri spoke of the centrality of the the Kashmir issue and the "human rights situation" in the border state. He said the Kashmir issue had continued to be a cause of tension, resulting in three wars in the past and had to be resolved for durable peace in South Asia.

Singh said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf will meet in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session later this month and discuss all issues.He said he had accepted Kasuri's invitation to visit Pakistan and announced that the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries would be meeting again in December this year.

Describing the outcome of the Composite Dialogue Process as "positive", Singh announced that the ceasefire in force since November 25 will be continued by the two countries. He said there will be a meeting on conventional and nuclear CBMs but did not specify any time frame. The first round of expert-level talks was held in New Delhi in June.

The two countries will also hold technical level meeting on the proposed Munnabao-Khokhrapar rail link in October-November. A joint survey of boundary pillars in the horizontal segment of International Border in Sir Creek area will be conducted and  Indian Coast Guard and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency will discuss Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation for establishing communication links between them, said Singh.  The BSF and Pakistani Rangers will have bi-annual meeting in October.

As part of efforts to enhance people-to-people contact, a 'Special Day' bus-service will be operated between Amritsar and Lahore for visits to religious places there like Nankana Sahib on special occasions. The two Foreign Offices will organise study tours of young diplomats to each other's country, similar to the arrangement India has with  other SAARC countries. 

Singh said both sides were "sincerely committed" to carrying forward the talks process and the first round of Composite Dialogue had concluded successfully.

"We should not lose sight of wise dictum. Diplomacy provides hope,  not salvation. Even modest progress is worthy of respect. We have made progress in last two days. Kasuri and I have established rapport and mutual trust," he said. He said India was committed to "deepen and widen its engagement with Pakistan to resolve all issues and build durable structure of peace and security in South Asia free from an atmosphere of terrorism and violence."

Singh said he reminded Kasuri of Musharraf's assurance in the January 6 joint statement on not allowing any territory under Pakistan's control to support terrorism in any manner. "Cross-border infiltration remains a serious concern and I have reiterated our concerns to Kasuri," he said.

 "There is no agreement on some issues which are old and complex but the Composite Dialogue process will continue," Singh said, adding the two Foreign Ministers discussed the Jammu and Kashmir issue "frankly and candidly to understand each other's view" on it.

Insisting that the Jammu and Kashmir issue was "central" to relations between India and Pakistan, Kasuri said the matter is "complex" but "not intractable. Given the political will, it can be solved and should be solved."

Stressing that Pakistan was "not unifocal", Kasuri said "it is not that Pakistan is interested in just discussing J&K. No. We know that we are living modern age ... There are areas where we can cooperate... Hopefully, there will be progress on all eight items."

The issues under Composite Dialogue are Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism and drug trafficking, peace and security including CBMs, Siachen, Wullar/Tulbul barrage, Sir Creek, trade and economic cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges.

The Pakistani Foreign Minister said Islamabad was "not imposing pre-conditions" on resolution of the Kashmir issue and added that "sky is the limit if the two sides cooperate" with the desire for resolving it.

Pointing out that the two countries had fought three wars over Kashmir and had nearly reached a war-like situation in 2002, Kasuri said "for durable peace in South Asia, this issue should be solved sooner than later."

Singh said the two countries were committed to the proposal of opening respective consulates in Mumbai and Karachi as soon as possible and officials were working on it. Kasuri said Pakistan had asked for Jinnah House but India had some problems on that and it had offered alternate house which was yet to be seen by the Pakistan High Commission.

Singh reiterated that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved within the framework of Shimla Agreement, Lahore Declaration and the January 6 statement.


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