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More Indo-Pak military contacts mooted

By Josy Joseph in New Delhi
February 24, 2004 15:59 IST
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India and Pakistan are looking to establish formal contacts between army units deployed along the entire Jammu and Kashmir border to make the present ceasefire permanent, officials involved in the ongoing peace process told rediff.com

The two foreign secretaries will discuss institutionalisation of military contacts when they meet in March-April this year, the officials said.

The move to initiate field level contacts arise from the success of the first-ever flag meeting in over three years along the Line of Control last week.

On Friday afternoon company commanders from both sides met in Chorbat La sector to sort out misunderstanding over some troop movements in Batalik sector.

A senior official involved in Pakistan affairs said the meeting was a test case. "Results of the flag meeting are being examined, if need be the level of meetings can be raised," an army spokesman said.

As of now the only formal established channel of contact between the two armies is a hotline between the Director Generals of Military Operations, which was activated after the Batalik incident took place over a month back.

The DGMOs' hotline was active even during the Kargil conflict. Normally every Tuesday the two DGMOs speak to each other.

National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra suggested the idea for increasing contacts between two militaries during the visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell to India during the heightened tensions between the two countries after the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament.

"The suggestion would be taken up from there. And we hope Pakistan would agree to it," said an official in the Ministry of External Affairs.

He said the suggestion now is to establish 'multiple' levels of contacts -- possibly between company, battalion, brigade, division and even corps commanders.

"Multiple levels of contact would ensure that faulty conversations at lower levels wouldn't lead to any untoward incident or damage the ceasefire," an army officer said.

The ceasefire along the entire J&K border has been holding since early November without any noticeable disruption.

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Josy Joseph in New Delhi
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