Wednesday, 27 July 2011

India, Pak agree on additional CBMs on Kashmir

India, Pak agree on additional CBMs on Kashmir

PTI External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar arrive for their joint statement following a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Krishna, Rabbani begin talks in New Delhi
New Delhi, Islamabad finalise set of CBMs

The two foreign ministers agreed during talks, held on Wednesday, to work more closely in fighting terrorism in the region and to easing cross-border commerce and travel.
India and Pakistan on Wednesday announced additional Confidence Building Measures related to Kashmir, including increasing cross-LoC trading days and expanding travel to include tourism and religious aspects.

After the “satisfactory” talks between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, the two sides also decided to relax permit conditions for travel by people of Jammu and Kashmir to the other side of LoC by having a system of six-month multiple entry.

The two ministers discussed Jammu and Kashmir, counter-terrorism measures, including progress in the Mumbai attacks trial in Pakistan, humanitarian issues, commercial and economic cooperation, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Sir Creek, Siachen, peace and security including CBMs and promotion of friendly exchanges.


They also agreed to convene separate meetings of the expert groups on nuclear and conventional CBMs, in Islamabad in September 2011.

“The Ministers held discussions on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to the need for continued discussions, in a purposeful and forward looking manner, with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences,” said a joint statement issued after the talks.

Mr. Krishna later said, “I must say that I am satisfied at the progress achieved in this round of the resumed dialogue.

The outcomes have been as per our expectations...While being fully cognisant of the challenges that lie ahead, I can confidently say that our relations are on the right track.”

On Jammu and Kashmir issue

On Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Krishna said they will continue discussions with a view to finding a peaceful solution by “narrowing divergences and building convergences“.

Expressing satisfaction at the outcome of talks, he said the two sides decided that the Foreign Ministers will meet again in Islamabad in the first half of 2012 to review progress in the dialogue process.

“We are listening carefully to each other and giving serious consideration to the ideas and proposals from both sides that are on the table. I am also confident about our future course of our relations, which has to be normalised for peace progress and prosperity of our two countries and the region,” the External Affairs Minister said.

“This is indeed a new era of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and it is our desire and I believe after having spoken to you (Krishna), that it is the desire and commitment of both the governments to make it an uninterrupted and an uninterpretable process,” Ms. Khar said.

Satisfaction on specific meetings

“We have expressed our satisfaction on holding of subject specific meetings during the last five months. We have agreed that the process should continue and in fact there is no alternative to dialogue and constructive engagement,” she said in a brief press stake-out after the meeting.

She said, “a new generation of India and Pakistan will see a relationship which is going to be much different then the one we experienced in the last few decades.”

Ms. Khar, the youngest and first woman Foreign Minister of Pakistan, said they should make every effort possible to narrowing down divergences and building convergences.

“It is important that a responsible state we take ownership of our own affairs. In the recent months we have seen an intensification of contacts at different levels between both the countries,” she said.

The joint statement said the ministers affirmed the importance of carrying forward the dialogue process with a “view to resolving peacefully all outstanding issues through constructive and result oriented engagement, and to establish friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations between Pakistan and India.”

They also underlined the need for sustained effort by both countries to build a relationship of trust and mutually beneficial cooperation in conformity with the determination of the people of both countries to see “an end to terrorism and violence and to realise their aspirations for peace and development.”

On terrorism issue

Mr. Krishna and Ms. Khar also agreed that terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security and reiterated the firm and undiluted commitment of the two countries to fight and eliminate this scourge in all its forms and manifestations.

“Both sides agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism including among relevant departments as well as agencies to bring those responsible for terror crimes to justice,” the statement said.

They noted with satisfaction the fact that “since the resumption of dialogue earlier this year, the process of release of prisoners and fishermen from both sides has continued.”

On CBMs, the statement said the Working Group will review the trading list with a view to further specifying permissible items to facilitate intra-Jammu and Kashmir Cross-LoC trade.

“The number of trading days stand enhanced from 2 to 4 days per week. Truck movements shall take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, both on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes,” the statement said.

Cross-LoC trade

The statement said the designated authorities will resolve operational issues concerning cross-LoC trade through regular interaction.

The meetings of the designated authorities will be held alternately at the Terminal of the Crossing Points on both sides of the LoC every quarter or as and when deemed necessary.

On cross-LoC travel, the statement said it would be expanded on both sides of the LoC to include visits for tourism and religious pilgrimage and that modalities in this regard will be worked out by both sides.

“Facilities including waiting area, terminal and clearing procedures at the operational crossing points will be streamlined by both sides for smooth Cross-LoC travel,” the statement said.

Cross-LoC bus service

The cross-LoC bus service between Srinagar- Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes will henceforth run on every Monday.

“Application forms and requisite documentation in respect of travel across LoC will be exchanged by email between Designated Authorities of both sides. Such email transfer of application forms will be backed up by hard copies,” the statement said.

It said India and Pakistan will expedite the processing time for applications, which shall not be more than 45 days.

“Six month multiple entry cross-LoC travel permits will be allowed by the Designated Authorities after completion of the required formalities at an early date,” the statement said.

It was agreed that the Joint Working Group will henceforth meet on a biannual basis to review existing arrangements and suggest additional measures for Cross-LoC travel and trade.

Economic engagement

Mr. Krishna and Ms. Khar agreed that increase in trade and economic engagement between the two countries would be mutually beneficial.

“In this context, they emphasized the importance of early establishment of a non-discriminatory trade regime between the two countries, including reduction/removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers. They also emphasised the need for facilitating trade and redressing trade imbalance,” the statement said.

The ministers also noted with satisfaction that during their meeting held in Islamabad in April 2011, the Commerce Secretaries of the two countries had decided on a number of important steps to realize the full potential of bilateral trade.

“The Ministers agreed that discussions will continue on Siachen, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project and Sir Creek to find a mutually acceptable solution to these issues.

They reiterated their commitment to seeking early and amicable solutions to all these issues,” the statement said.

The two sides also reaffirmed their commitment to the Indus Waters Treaty.

They noted with “satisfaction” the progress made towards finalization of a revised Visa Agreement which would help liberalise the visa regime and facilitate people-to-people, business-to-business and sports contacts.

“The Ministers also emphasised promotion of cooperation in various fields including, facilitating visits to religious shrines, media exchanges, holding of sports tournaments and cessation of hostile propaganda against each other,” the statement said.

Technical Level Working Groups

India-Pakistan Joint Commission and agreed that the Technical Level Working Groups should hold their meetings to identify avenues of further cooperation in these fields.

“They reaffirmed their commitment to the goals and objectives of SAARC and agreed to make joint efforts to promote cooperation for regional development in the SAARC framework,” the statement said.

The Ministers noted that Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has extended an invitation to his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim to visit India at a mutually convenient date.

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