‘India-Pakistan bilateral ties have matured’

May 20th, 2008 - 12:12 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Islamabad, May 20 (IANS) Bilateral ties between India and Pakistan have matured to the extent that the recent serial blasts in Jaipur will not cast a shadow on the upcoming talks here between the foreign ministers of the two countries, a leading Pakistani commentator said Tuesday. “Fortunately, bilateral relations between the former foes have matured to such an extent that the recent condemnable terrorist acts in Jaipur in no way cast a shadow on these talks, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even stating that those behind these blasts would not succeed in driving a wedge between the two countries,” Mariana Baabar wrote in The News.

Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will meet his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi Wednesday to review the fourth round of the composite dialogue process between the two countries and to kick off the fifth round. Ahead of this, the foreign secretaries of the two countries meet on Tuesday.

The meetings are the first high-level contact between the two countries since the new Pakistani government was formed in February.

“The ministry of foreign affairs has been preparing for these very important meetings. Foreign Minister Qureshi had a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf on Monday and also chaired a meeting of over a dozen former foreign ministers, foreign secretaries and former ambassadors. The minister has also met Kashmiri leaders both from Muzaffarabad and Srinagar ahead of these talks,” Baabar wrote.

“Though not a single voice was raised in these meetings against the continuation of the composite dialogue, questions are being asked whether the government will follow Musharraf’s policies, since Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani has called Musharraf’s ideas on Kashmir ‘half-baked’”, she added.

“There has been no debate in parliament yet on the future of the composite dialogue and floating of new proposals on Kashmir,” Baabar noted, even as she quoted a foreign office spokesman as saying that “Pakistan desires to have friendly and good neighbourly relations with India, and a stable and prosperous South Asian region. We are committed to the peace process and seek peaceful resolution of all issues including Jammu and Kashmir”.

The two rounds of talks will be held on all the eight components of the composite dialogue process covering peace and security, including confidence building measures; Jammu and Kashmir; Siachen; Sir Creek; Wullar barrage; terrorism and drug trafficking; economic and commercial cooperation; and promotion of friendly exchanges.

“The review meetings would help the two sides assess the progress made in the fourth round of the eight segments of the composite dialogue process and deliberate on how to address the outstanding issues in a more meaningful way,” the Pakistani foreign office spokesman has said.

Mukherjee and Menon would also sound out Pakistan’s new leaders, trying to determine who was devising policy, Baabar wrote.

“Reports about the consultative meeting at the foreign office on Monday spoke of consensus on continuing the composite dialogue but with more emphasis on conflict resolution. Some participants, including former foreign minister Inamul Haq, former foreign secretaries Riaz H. Khokhar, Shamshad Ahmed and former ambassador Javed Hussain objected to ‘unilateral concessions’ given to India.

“They said now it was time for India to reciprocate,” Baabar said.

Quoting diplomatic sources, The Nation said the two countries were expected to reach an agreement on prompt notification of arrest of each other’s citizens, early release of inadvertent border crossers and consular access to prisoners.

“It was also likely that Islamabad and New Delhi would agree on the visa regime relaxation and removing hurdles in the issuance of visas to the people who wanted to visit Pakistan and India.

“However, no breakthrough was likely on any major issue including Kashmir, as the Indian foreign minister’s main purpose would be to know what is on the mind of new Pakistani leadership,” The Nation said.

“Mukherjee will try to know who is the real decision maker in Islamabad now as for the peace process with India. Is it still President Musharraf, the army or the new government headed by Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

The other important task before Mukherjee would be to set the dates of the much awaited visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan to push forward the peace process the two countries launched in January 2004, The Nation said.

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