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Indo-Pak talks: A lot on the table
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March 12, 2007 12:20 IST
Last Updated: March 12, 2007 20:31 IST

Sounding optimistic over the Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary-level talks in Islamabad on Tuesday, Pakistan on Monday hoped the two sides will now move from confidence building measures on Jammu and Kashmir to 'dispute resolution.'

On the eve of the two-day talks between Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Muhammad Khan, foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam indicated that several agreements, including one on the visa liberalisation, will be firmed up.

"We hope that we will finalise a number of agreements that have been under process for some time -- the speedy return of inadvertent border crossers, visa relaxation regime and quarterly flag meetings of sector commanders," Aslam told media persons in Islamabad.

She said the foreign secretaries, who will formally kick start the fourth round of the composite dialogue process, will focus their discussion on Kashmir, peace and security and CBMs, which directly fall under the purview.

"On Jammu and Kashmir, it is now important that we now move from CBMs to dispute resolution. We believe an early resolution of the Kashmir issue will pave the way for durable peace in the region and bring about a greater cooperation in South Asia," she said.

Aslam said Pakistan will propose the strategic restraint regime in both the conventional and nuclear sectors even though India time and again rejected it. Peace and security encompasses both nuclear and conventional issues, she said, adding that 'there are a number of ideas on the table' including proposals for strategic restraint in conventional weapons, nuclear missiles restraint, and conflict resolution.

The foreign secretaries will also fix the schedule of meetings between relevant officials of both the countries to discuss other issues, which included Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage, Cooperation in the fields of trade and economy, control of narcotics and cultural exchanges.

On purported reaction from some Congress leaders rejecting the joint management proposal forwarded by President Pervez Musharraf to resolve the Kashmir issue, Aslam said, "We have nothing to do with the internal discussions in India. We will focus on what the Indian government has to say to Pakistan, what is their response to the ideas given by the President of Pakistan. We are concerned with that."

On Pakistan's assessment of the just-concluded first meeting of the joint mechanism on terrorism between the two countries, she said, "It is a mechanism that has to work away from the glare of publicity. We are happy that the meeting took place. We were able to exchange some information. The two governments will hopefully be working on that. We will take it from there."

Aslam also declined to go into the nature of evidence Pakistan forwarded to India to back its allegations of Indian support to nationalist rebels in Balochistan and Sindh.

"We hope that Indian government will be looking into that and we hope they will be able to do the needful. But there is no expectation that they would be able to respond in six days," she said.

On plans by the relatives of Indian Prisoners of War to visit Pakistan to locate their dear ones, she said some relatives of the missing soldiers believe that they are still confined to jails in Pakistan and Musharraf has agreed to permit the families to visit Pakistan to see for themselves. "If it would somehow assuage their concerns and bring some closure, we have no problems with that," she said.

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