India to Pakistan: Violence-free atmosphere must for better ties (Night Lead)

June 27th, 2008 - 9:21 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) India Friday hoped for a “more fruitful” fifth round of composite dialogue with Pakistan that starts July 21 even as it called for an “unambiguous” approach towards terrorism and underlined that ties can thrive only in “an atmosphere free from violence.” “Terrorism is a threat to the stability of our respective democratic frameworks. Whatever may be our political differences, we have to be unambiguous in addressing the terrorist threat,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters at a joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Stressing on “concrete results”, including exchange of information on terrorists and terrorist incidents, Mukherjee said: “We are committed to peace, friendship and good neighbourly relations with Pakistan and to develop these relations in an atmosphere free of violence or the threat to use violence. Such an atmosphere has to be positively promoted.”

The two sides also decided to enhance cooperation in combating the common threat of terrorism by holding regular meetings of the joint anti-terror mechanism. The last meeting of the mechanism in Islamabad was held last week after a gap of nine months as opposed to the decision to hold the meeting every six months.

Both Qureshi and Mukherjee sounded upbeat about the deepening of the peace process in the coming days that could see the two sides cooperating on a wide range of new areas ranging from wind and thermal power and food security to the metro rail and the intensification of economic ties.

But India’s emphasis on an atmosphere free from violence underlined its continuing concerns about cross-border terrorism and its desire to see the new civilian government act on its pledge to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Qureshi, on his part, spoke about Pakistan’s multi-faceted strategy of dealing with terrorism in the context of a recent peace deal with militants in Waziristan - a move India fears may free up the Taliban to target India.

Qureshi reiterated a long-standing invitation by Pakistan for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying his visit would “add a new chapter in our bilateral relations”.

“We are looking forward to his visit to Islamabad,” Qureshi said while stressing on need to make peace talks “more result-oriented.”

“We will try to finalise the dates soon,” was all Mukherjee would say.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir will come here for two-day talks with his Indian counterpart Shivshankar Menon July 21 to discuss peace and security, including confidence building measures (CBMs) and Jammu and Kashmir.

The two foreign secretaries will launch the fifth round of composite dialogue which, Mukherjee hoped, “will be even more fruitful than the earlier rounds” and pave the way for “a qualitative transformation” in ties between the two countries.

The two sides discussed a slew of cross-border CBMs and agreed to hold a meeting of the technical group in Islamabad July 10 to give concrete form to bus services, trade and truck services across the line of control (LoC) announced last month during Mukherjee’s visit to Islamabad.

Setting a positive tone for the fifth round of dialogue, Qureshi said: “I have come to India with a very positive agenda and a positive frame of mind. People of both sides are ahead of their governments.”

“The governments have to show political will and push the peace process to our mutual advantage,” Qureshi, who is on his first visit to India after becoming foreign minister of Pakistan three months ago, said.

“We have the right environment. We must not miss this opportunity. Positive movement will revitalise the people’s faith in the peace process,” he said while alluding to decades-old issues like Siachen and Sir Creek which, he stressed, were “doable” if both sides show political will.

Qureshi also made a strong pitch for India to decide quickly on going ahead with the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline saying it could be “a peace pipeline” that would bring prosperity to the entire region.

The two sides also agreed to uphold the November, 2003 ceasefire along the line of Control and International Border and stressed that it was in the “mutual interest” of both countries to maintain the ceasefire.

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