India, Pakistan to review composite dialogue Wednesday (Lead)

November 24th, 2008 - 6:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Islamabad, Nov 24 (IANS) Three days after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s path-breaking advocacy of no first use of nuclear weapons, the country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi arrives here Tuesday on a four-day visit that seeks to invigorate the peace process between the two countries. On Wednesday, Qureshi will meet his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee to discuss bilateral issues included in the Composite Dialogue that both the countries started in 2004.

In June this year, Qureshi had to cut short his visit to India to attend his mother-in-law’s funeral. “The visit is to complete the previous visit and engagements which he had to leave because of the death,” an official in Islamabad told IANS.

The official said that the minister would also meet media persons, besides a delegation of Kashmiris.

Qureshi will also pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and will convey “President Asif Zardari’s important message to him” besides reiterating an invitation to visit Pakistan.

Zardari, while addressing Hindustan Times Leadership Summit via satellite from Islamabad Saturday had stated Pakistan will never make a first nuclear strike and also that Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris.

India and Pakistan are into their fourth round of the Composite Dialogue on eight issues viz: confidence building measures, Kashmir, Wullar Barrage, Promotion of Friendly Exchanges, Siachen, Sir Creek, Terrorism and Drug Trafficking, and Economic and Commercial Cooperation.

“It will not be a structured dialogue but the two foreign ministers will discuss all aspects of bilateral relations including the ongoing dialogue process, cross-LoC (Line of Control) CBMs, visas and bilateral trade,” the Pakistani official said.

This will be the first high-level contact between the two countries after the September meeting in New York between Zardari and Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

The two ministers will also review the progress in the fifth round of composite dialogue that was launched in the shadow of the bombings outside the Indian mission in Kabul July 7 that put the peace process under strain.

India has blamed Pakistan’s ISI for the Kabul bombings - a charge denied by Islamabad. The two sides discussed this issue in their anti-terror mechanism last month.

The Pakistani foreign minister is likely to raise the Chenab river water dispute and push for its early settlement, said the official. In the wake of media reports that an Indian Army officer is a suspect in masterminding the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast that killed several Pakistani citizens, Qureshi is also expected to underline that findings of this investigation be shared with Pakistan at the earliest possible.

Taking a humanitarian view of the release of prisoners and inadvertent border crossers will also figure prominently in the discussions.

India will also take up with the Pakistani side increased infiltration and sporadic violations of the ceasefire along the LoC that the two sides agreed to on Nov 25, 2003.

The meeting between the two foreign ministers is significant as it will take place six days before the crucial India- Pakistan talks on the Sir Creek maritime dispute, and a likely meeting on the Siachen issue soon.

There are indications from both capitals that a breakthrough is expected during the Dec 2-3 meeting on Sir Creek in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, Indian Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta arrived in Islamabad Monday on a two-day visit to discuss the visas and prisoners issues. This meeting was to have preceded the SAARC ministers summit in Islamabad that had to be postponed on Bangladesh’s request.

Gupta Monday crossed over to Pakistan from the Atari border check-post in Punjab.

“We are happy that this meeting is taking place despite the SAARC meeting being postponed,” the Pakistani official told IANS.

Qureshi will go with Mukherjee to Chandigarh Thursday to jointly participate in a seminar on “Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in South Asia”. This trip is aimed at strengthening the ties between the “two Punjabs” on either side of the border.

He will also visit Jaipur and Ajmer in Rajasthan that is home to the holy shrine of one of the most revered Sufi saints, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

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