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INDIA - PAKISTAN

Threat not eliminated: Manmohan

Thursday 21 April 2005

Special Correspondent

"We look forward to Pakistan implementing their assurances in letter and spirit"

- "Substantive" talks with Musharraf

- Joint Statement meant to move bilateral ties forward Global, strategic character of ties with China

- Sikkim no longer an "issue"

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today said in Parliament that the threat to the peace process (with Pakistan) from extremist forces and terrorist organisations had not been eliminated and that the whole process of serious and sustained dialogue hinged on building an atmosphere of trust and confidence, free from violence and terror.

Dr. Singh said while India was committed to peace and friendship with Pakistan, the difficult issues that divided both the nations had bedevilled relations for far too long to hope for an immediate resolution. "We look forward to Pakistan implementing their assurances in letter and spirit," he said in suo motu statement made in both the Houses on the recent visits of the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, and the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao.

Describing the talks with Gen. Musharraf during his visit from April 16 to 18 as "substantive," Dr. Singh said that on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir he told the Pakistan President that while redrawing of boundaries was not possible, all measures that could bring people together, including increased transportation linkages to facilitate greater traffic of people and trade across the border and the Line of Control, would help create mutual trust and confidence.

Gen. Musharraf did stress the importance of addressing the Jammu and Kashmir issue. However, he also agreed that the confidence-building process between the two countries had made significant progress. Both felt that this process would promote trust and understanding which would be conducive in creating an environment for a "just, fair and mutually acceptable solution to all outstanding issues." Referring to the Joint Statement signed with President Musharraf, Dr. Singh said it was meant to move the bilateral relationship forward. There was agreement on several forward-looking measures including restoration of rail link between Khokhrapar and Munabao on the heels of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service despite terrorist threats and the terrorist suicide attack on the Srinagar Tourist Reception Centre.

He said both sides reviewed the progress made in the bilateral relations through confidence-building measures and people-to-people contacts. India conveyed the importance it attached to enhanced bilateral economic and commercial cooperation and to the need to multiply beneficial linkages of trade and transit, including the gas pipeline.

Milestone pact with China

With China, the Prime Minister said that despite the signing of the "milestone" agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question, both sides were quite some distance away from a final boundary settlement. In the meantime, both sides agreed to strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC), maintain peace in the border areas and expedite the work of clarification and confirmation of the LAC.

Sikkim was no longer an "issue" in India-China relations. China regarded Sikkim as an "inalienable part of India’’ and the joint statement signed between both the countries explicitly referred to "Sikkim State of the Republic of India."

The Chinese side officially handed over to India a revised map showing Sikkim within the international boundaries of India. The Joint Statement codified the consensus that India-China relations had transcended bilateral issues and acquired a global and strategic character. Both the sides agreed on reforms in the U.N. system. China said it supported India’s desire to play an active role in the U.N. and in international affairs.

In the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister was continuously interrupted by Tapir Gao (BJP), who wanted to know whether the status of Arunachal Pradesh figured in talks with Mr. Jiabao.

Instead of clarifications, BJP members in Rajya Sabha sought a full-fledged discussion on the Prime Minister’s statement, to which the government agreed.

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