India, Pakistan hope to move forward, finalise CBMs (Night Lead)

July 26th, 2011 - 10:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) India and Pakistan Tuesday set a positive tone for their revived dialogue as their foreign secretaries finalized a host of cross-Kashmir confidence-building measures (CBMs) that the foreign ministers of the two countries will unveil Wednesday.

The 34-year-old Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s first woman foreign minister and the youngest, touched down here Tuesday afternoon. She exhorted both countries to shed the “burden of history” and move forward as “good neighbours” and become responsible players in the region.

“I hope that these two countries have learnt lessons from history, but are not burdened by them,” she said in a carefully worded message that sought to reinforce the goodwill the exchanges so far had generated. “I hope we can move forward as good, friendly neighbours who have a stake in each other’s future. Both the countries understand their responsibilities to the region and within the region,” she said.

Before Khar flew to New Delhi, she had told reporters that Pakistan was looking to “result-oriented dialogue.” “We should be positive in our engagement, and we are,” she said.

Khar arrived here soon after the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan Tuesday ended their delegation-level preparatory talks, lasting over two hours, to firm up the agenda for the ministers’ meeting, after which the CBMs will be unveiled.

In the evening, the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met and cleared the agenda for the foreign ministers’ talks. The meeting was attended by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

Rao and Bashir had “very cordial and positive discussions today in New Delhi,” Vishnu Prakash, the spokesperson of the external affairs ministry, told reporters.

“They reviewed the progress in talks between different ministries and organisations of the two countries in the preceding months,” he said. Pressing Pakistan for speedy justice for the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, India is understood to have given Pakistan the revised list of “Most Wanted” fugitives which contains 48 names.

The Indian side also raised the issue of Pakistani spy agency ISI’s links with Kashmiri separatism and emphasised the need for “an atmosphere free from terror” to continue meaningful talks, sources said.

Rao and Bashir finalised a slew of CBMs designed to expand travel and trade across the divided halves of Kashmir, setting the stage for a positive meeting between Khar and Krishna, officials said. The CBMs could include an increase in the frequency of cross-Kashmir bus links between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and Poonch and Rawalakot, an increase in the number of trading days across the Line of Control (LoC) from two to four, the opening of more trading points and multiple-entry permits for 6 months for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The two sides may also announce the release on humanitarian grounds of prisoners in each other’s custody.

A government source said the two sides also discussed measures to liberalise the visa regime that seeks to boost people-to-people contacts which both sides have decided on as a focus area in their relationship. The two sides also discussed possibilities of upgrading their dialogue in some areas to the ministerial level, said the source. India also underlined the need to expand the scope of dialogue by including new people-centric areas of cooperation like agriculture, health and telecommunications.

The Pakistani side raised the Kashmir “dispute” and pressed for a swifter resolution of the decades-old issue that has triggered two of the four wars fought by the nuclear-armed neighbours.

But despite differences over contentious points, the atmospherics were positive, signalling the clear political will on the part of New Delhi and Islamabad to sustain the peace process they revived in February after an over two-year hiatus following the 26/11 terror spree that was perpetrated and masterminded by Pakistani terrorists and elements from across the border.

“We had a very good meeting in Islamabad last month and this in a sense has set the trend for the discussions today,” Rao said while welcoming Bashir.

“I think we have every reason to be satisfied with our joint endeavours for the cause of peace and stability and for good relations between our two countries,” said Bashir, adding that he looked forward to a “productive meeting between the two ministers”.

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