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India, Pakistan to find a `final’ solution to J&K

Monday 28 June 2004, by BARUAH*Amit

NEW DELHI, JUNE 28. India and Pakistan said today that the Foreign Secretaries, Shashank and Riaz Khokhar, had held a "detailed exchange" of views on Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to continue their "sustained and serious" dialogue to find a peaceful, negotiated and "final" settlement of the issue.

In a departure from the past, New Delhi submitted to Islamabad a set of Kashmir-specific proposals on transport links, trade, cultural cooperation, tourism, environment and people-to-people contacts.

A joint statement issued after two days of talks said the strength of the High Commissions would be "immediately restored" to 110 and that the two sides had agreed, in principle, to re-establish the consulates in Karachi and Mumbai, the modalities for which would be worked out by the two Governments.

"All apprehended fishermen in each other’s custody would be immediately released and a mechanism put in place for the return of unintentionally transgressing fishermen and their boats from the high seas without apprehending them. Steps would be initiated for early release of civilian prisoners," it said.

"The two sides proposed a comprehensive framework for conventional CBMs [confidence-building measures] aimed at initiating and enhancing communication, coordination and interaction. These would be discussed further." According to the statement, the Foreign Secretaries reiterated their commitment to the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and their "determination to implement" the Shimla Agreement in letter and in spirit - the language lifted from the February 1999 Lahore Declaration.

"Recalling the reassurance contained in the joint press statement of January 6, 2004, they exchanged views on carrying the process forward in an atmosphere free from terrorism and violence," the statement noted. "The Foreign Secretaries reiterated the hope that the dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides."

The Foreign Secretaries approved the measures recommended by the expert-level meeting that took place on June 19-20 to discuss nuclear confidence-building measures. They agreed to conclude an agreement on pre-notification of flight-testing of missiles and asked the experts to work towards this goal.

The remaining six issues of the composite dialogue on Siachen, Wullar barrage/Tulbul navigation project, Sir Creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation as well as promotion of friendly exchanges would take place between the third week of July and the first half of August.

Mr. Khokhar and select members of his delegation also called on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, and the National Security Adviser, J.N. Dixit, before returning home .

Invitations were extended by Mr. Khokhar to the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister, and the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, to visit Pakistan, the statement added.

Officials said that while India raised the issue of terrorism and infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistani side called for an end to "human rights violations" and reduction of the troops in the State.

When presented with India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism, the Pakistani side demanded evidence and pointed out that Islamabad was tackling the problem of terrorism head on as shown by the launch of military operations in the North-West Frontier Province.

Amit Baruah

See online : The Hindu

P.S.

Highlights

- India, Pakistan agree to open consulates in Karachi, Mumbai.

- To restore with immediate effect the strength of the High Commissions to 110 each.

- To pre-notify the flight-testing of missiles.

- All of each other’s fishermen to be released; early release of all civilian prisoners to be worked out.

in The Hindu, Monday, June 28, 2004.

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