India-Pakistan talks going well, says Shaukat Aziz
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Tuesday expressed satisfaction at the ongoing dialogue process between Pakistan and India and was confident it would create a conducive environment to settle all issues including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
“For the process to move forward, it is imperative that progress on Jammu and Kashmir should move in tandem along with progress in other areas,” Aziz said in a meeting with the Indian Foreign secretary, Shyam Saran.
According to an official statement issued after the meeting, they discussed a proposed gas pipeline between Iran, Pakistan and India and hoped for progress on the issue.
“The prime minister expressed concern over the delay in the resolution of the Baglihar dam issue and said that there was a need for an urgent bilateral meeting to amicably address the issues,” the statement added.
During the meeting, the two sides agreed that they should encourage their banks to open branches in each other’s countries. They also agreed that an increase in the number of flights would encourage travel and tourism and facilitate people-to-people contact.
Aziz said that an agreement on the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service would be an important confidence-building measure and would benefit the people of Kashmir. He emphasised the need to address the existing trade deficit between India and Pakistan, particularly non-tariff barriers in India.
Aziz said that SAARC needs to be given a role in enhancing cooperation between member states. The SAARC Secretariat should be strengthened to implement decisions taken by the organisation. He said he was looking forward to his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Dhaka in January 2005.
Saran, the Indian Foreign secretary, said at a later press conference that his meeting with the prime minister had been positive and he had an “open mind” for trade with India. Aziz had also said he was ready to consider applications from Indian banks for operating in Pakistan.