India and Pakistan should jointly fight terror: Pranab(Lead)

May 20th, 2008 - 8:51 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Manish Chand
Islamabad, May 20 (IANS) India Tuesday asked Pakistan to join hands in a common fight against terrorism for “collective security” of the region and said the future of the talks would depend on an “atmosphere free from terrorism, violence or the threat to it”. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who landed here Tuesday for talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi, held separate meetings with ruling coalition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and his ally, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

He discussed with them steps to accelerate the peace process between the two countries and conveyed India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism.

Mukherjee stressed India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism - an issue that has shadowed ties between the two countries for years and which has acquired an added edge after last week’s bombings in the Indian tourist town of Jaipur.

According to well informed sources, the Indian minister said India and Pakistan must strengthen cooperation in sharing information to combat terrorism which will foster trust and cooperation between the two countries. The idea was welcomed by the two key leaders of the ruling coalition.

This is the first high-level engagement between the two countries since a civilian government was installed in Islamabad after the Feb 18 elections.

Lauding “a new democratic environment of great promise” in Pakistan, Mukherjee asserted that the “present environment” would help both countries in addressing “various issues related to peace, stability and economic development”.

He took note of the “considerable progress” in India’s composite dialogue with Pakistan and said he was hopeful that his discussions Wednesday would provide “a good basis for the fifth round of composite dialogue”.

“The talks will be useful for furthering peace, stability, people-to-people contact and accelerated economic development of both our countries, as well as our entire region,” Mukherjee told reporters as he arrived here for his two-day visit.

“Several proposals in the political, economic and regional fields are on the anvil for consideration and implementation,” Mukherjee said.

“We approach the next round in a spirit of cooperation, trust and pragmatism. This predicated on an atmosphere free from terrorism, violence or the threat of it,” Mukherjee said, conveying India’s desire to seek active cooperation with Pakistan on terrorism that has created trust deficit and hobbled the ties between the two countries.

Mukherjee will call on Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and President Pervez Musharraf separately Wednesday.

“For the sake of our collective futures, we must work together to combat the menace of terrorism. That would be a fitting tribute to Mrs Bhutto’s memory and her legacy,” he said while alluding to the tragic assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto by militants Dec 27 last year.

Describing her killing as “a fresh wound”, the minister said not just Pakistan but the entire region had lost a “charismatic leader of great promise, foresight and capability”.

Mukherjee and Qureshi will review the fourth round of composite dialogue Wednesday and discuss an array of bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, peace and security and terrorism. The two ministers are expected to announce fresh confidence building measures (CBMs) in the form of more cross-border trade and travel links.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir concluded the review of composite dialogue Tuesday, with both sides expressing “satisfaction at the progress” of the composite dialogue.

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