India, Pakistan firm up cross-Kashmir CBMs, discuss terror (Second Lead)

July 26th, 2011 - 5:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) As the foreign secretaries of the two countries firmed up confidence building measures (CBMs), Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar Tuesday hoped New Delhi and Islamabad could move forward as “good, friendly neigbours”.

The 34-year-old Khar, Pakistan’s first woman and youngest foreign foreign minister, will hold wide-ranging talks with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna Wednesday, when the CBMs will be unveiled.

Khar touched down in her special flight Tuesday on a rainy afternoon.

She was warmly received by Sharat Sabharwal, India’s high commissioner to Pakistan, and Y.K. Sinha, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan in the foreign office. They were joined by Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik and senior officials of the mission.

“This is my first trip to India and New Delhi as the foreign minister of Pakistan. I bring the good wishes of the people of Pakistan and the government of Pakistan,” Khar told reporters at the airport.

“I hope that these two countries have learnt lessons from history, but are not burdened by them,” Khar said, setting a positive tone for the talks.

“I hope we can move forward as good, friendly neighbours who have stake in each other’s future. Both the countries understand their responsibilities to the region and within the region,” she said.

Khar arrives here soon after the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan Tuesday ended their preparatory talks, lasting over two hours, to firm up the agenda for the ministers’ meeting.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir held delegation-level talks that reviewed the progress in bilateral relations since they last met in Islamabad a month ago.

They finalised a slew of CBMs designed to expand travel and trade across the divided halves of Kashmir, officials said.

The CMBs, expected to be announced by Krishna and Khar Wednesday, 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, and opening of more trading points.

A government source said the two sides will also discuss measures to liberalise the visa regime.

The two sides also discussed possibilities of upgrading their dialogue in some areas to the ministerial level, said the source.

During the talks, the Indian side pushed for speedy justice for victims of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, raised the issue of Pakistani spy agency ISI’s link with Kashmiri separatism, and emphasised the need for “an atmosphere free from terror” to continue meaningful talks, the source added.

India also underlined the need to expand the scope of dialogue by including new people-centric areas of cooperation like agriculture, health and telecommunications.

“We are meeting here today, preparatory to the discussion that will be held tomorrow between Krishna and Khar,” Rao said while welcoming Bashir.

“We had a very good meeting in Islamabad last month and this in a sense has set the trend for the discussions today.”

Thanking Rao for inviting him and his delegation, Bashir said: “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.”

Bashir stressed that he look forward to a “productive meeting between the two ministers”.

The Indian delegation, headed by Rao, included Sinha, Sabharwal and Vishnu Prakash, the spokesperson of the external affairs ministry.

The Pakistani delegation, headed by Bashir, included Zehra H. Akbari, director general, South Asia, in Pakistan’s foreign office, and the high commissioner.

The meeting between the foreign ministers marks the high point of the peace process India resumed with Pakistan 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.

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