India, Pakistan ready for 5th round of dialogue July 21 (Lead)June 27th, 2008 - 7:24 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) India and Pakistan Friday set a positive tone for the fifth round of their composite dialogue beginning July 21 and agreed to impart fresh momentum to the peace process by exploring new areas of cooperation ranging from food and energy security to the metro rail. 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, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters after talks with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
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.
Mukherjee and Qureshi held talks on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including terrorism, the intensification of economic ties and enhancing cooperation in areas like food and energy security as well as emerging areas of cooperation in wind and thermal power and the development of rapid mass transport systems, including the metro railway.
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.
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.
“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,” Mukherjee said.
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.”
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.
Mukherjee stressed on expanded cooperation in areas that directly affects the lives of millions in both countries. “Issues of energy security, food security, poverty alleviation, amongst others, are challenges which confront both our countries. Our cooperation in these areas fruitfully contributes to the ongoing process within SAARC,” he said.
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. I represent the democratic government and the ruling coalition.”
“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.
He 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.
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 will try to finalise the dates soon,” was all Mukherjee would say.