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India, Pakistan close to inking key agreements
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May 20, 2008 21:55 IST

Considerable narrowing down of differences on Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek marked the resumption of the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan on Tuesday after a gap of six months even as New Delhi voiced concern over cross-border terrorism and infiltrations.

India proposed a number of cross-LoC initiatives, like doubling the frequency of bus services, launching the truck service and liberalising the permit system, to make the confidence-building measures "more effective".

 The issue of prisoners like Sarabjit Singh, condemned to death in Pakistan, also came up during the talks between Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.

India emphasised that the matter needed to be dealt with keeping humanitarian angle in mind as per the law.

Reviewing the fourth round of composite dialogue covering a wide range of subjects, the two sides made progress in a number of areas and are close to signing some agreements, including for consular access to prisoners.

"We are very close to several agreements..We may not sign many but some will be brought to the stage where they can be signed," Menon told a press conference after his talks with Bashir.

The Indian side also raised the issue of recent firing incidents at LoC after which Pakistan assured that it would do "everything" to ensure that the over four-year ceasefire was maintained. To a question on Siachen and Sir Creek, Menon said "considerable progress" has been made in "narrowing down differences" on these vexed issues.

On Siachen, Menon said it needed to be converted into a "mountain of peace" and the issue needed to be dealt with in context of environmental consequence.

Under the composite dialogue, India and Pakistan have had discussions with "unparallelled depth, intensity and quality" on Jammu and Kashmir [Images] which has helped "narrow down the differences", Menon said.

The dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir has helped evolve ways in which the two countries can cooperate, he said, citing the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot bus services as examples in this regard.

"We have made progress in dealing with issues that affect the welfare of people there (in Jammu and Kashmir)," the foreign secretary said. He refused to speak further, saying the foreign ministers of the two countries would discuss the issue further on Wednesday.

During the talks, the Indian side proposed making the fortnightly Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot bus services weekly, early launch of truck service on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route and liberalising the permit system by making it multi-entry. New Delhi, at the same time, voiced concern over continued cross-border terrorism and infiltration. The foreign secretary said the two sides were looking at ways that would suit both.

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