India, Pakistan ink deal on consular access for prisoners (Lead)

May 21st, 2008 - 8:28 pm ICT by admin  

By Manish Chand
Islamabad, May 21 (IANS) India and Pakistan Wednesday agreed to jointly combat terrorism and signed an agreement on providing consular access to prisoners in each others’ countries. The agreement came after Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee held discussions with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and concluded their review of the fourth round of the composite dialogue process between the two countries.

Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Satbyabrata Pal and Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik signed the agreement on providing consular access to prisoners.

The two countries also underlined their commitment to strengthening the peace process and resolving all issues including Kashmir in a spirit of friendship and mutual understanding.

In a significant step, the two countries also decided to expand trade and investment between them, saying improved economic ties will not only be a confidence building measure but also lead to economic prosperity for both countries.

At the end of the talks, Mukherjee outlined the three pillars of India’s engagement with Pakistan as: an atmosphere free from terrorism and violence, willingness to proceed with resolving all issues and developing a normal and cooperative relationship.

“Stable, prosperous, and peaceful Pakistan and India are in our mutual interest,” Mukherjee said at a joint press conference with Qureshi.

A joint statement issued after the talks said these were held in friendly and constructive atmosphere.

“We reaffirm our determination not to let terrorism impede the peace process and to take all necessary steps to eliminate this scourge against humanity,” the statement said.

It was also decided that the foreign secretaries of the two countries would launch the fifth round of the composite dialogue in New Delhi in July.

The two countries also decided to activate their anti-terror mechanism and announced that its next meeting will be held in June.

The two sides agreed on a set of cross-Line of Control confidence building measures that will enhance people-to-people contact and help to build on convergences and narrow down divergences on Kashmir.

These include an increase in the frequency of the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar and Rawalkot-Poonch bus services from a fortnightly to a weekly basis and to finalise modalities for intra-Kashmir trade and truck services.

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