Foreign secretary-level talks conclude: India and Pakistan pledge to move forward on Kashmir
* Reiterate commitment to UN Charter
* Affirm determination to implement Simla Agreement
* Agree to re-establish consulates in Karachi and Mumbai
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan on Monday agreed to continue their “sustained and serious” engagement to find a “negotiated final settlement” to the Jammu and Kashmir issue and announced several confidence building measures (CBMs) to carry the peace process forward.
At the end of the two-day foreign secretary-level talks, both countries in a two-page joint statement reiterated their commitment to the principles and purpose of the UN Charter and affirmed their determination to implement the Simla Agreement “in letter and spirit”. Pakistan also called for a mechanism to include representatives of the Kashmiri people in future negotiations.
Both countries decided to immediately restore the strength of their respective high commissions to 110 and free all arrested fishermen in each other’s custody with immediate effect, the statement said. As part of humanitarian measures, a mechanism would be put in place for the return of unintentionally transgressing fishermen and their boats from the high seas without apprehending them, it said. Steps would also be taken for the early release of civilian prisoners, the statement added. It was agreed in principle to re-establish their respective consulates in Karachi and Mumbai, it said.
Both countries proposed a comprehensive framework for conventional CBMs aimed at initiating and enhancing communication, coordination and interaction that would be discussed further, the statement added. Both countries also approved the measures recommended by the experts-level meeting on nuclear CBMs in New Delhi earlier this month, it stated. It was decided that experts from both countries would be entrusted with the task of finalising a draft agreement on advance notification of missile testing, the statement said.
Officials also agreed that the meetings on the remaining six subjects of the composite dialogue would take place between the third week of July and the first half of August this year. These include Siachen, the Tulbul navigation project, Sir Creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields.
Calling the talks “very positive and constructive”, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said, “This is a good and hopeful beginning and a beginning of a process.” Asked about the proposed bus link between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad, he said, “The proposal is still on the table.”
Mr Sarna said the issue of terrorism was discussed and it was underscored that “terrorism is not good for the region, not good for India, not good for Pakistan”.
The two foreign secretaries would meet again in the third week of August in Islamabad to review the progress achieved in the composite dialogue and prepare for the meeting of the foreign ministers that would immediately follow, the statement added.
The statement issued after the talks had made an unexpected reference to the UN Charter, with both sides reiterating their commitment to its principles and purposes. Asked about the reference to the UN Charter and whether it signified an acceptance of Pakistan’s demand that UN resolutions be the basis for resolving the Kashmir issue, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan told reporters at a separate briefing that “both countries are committed to the UN Charter. It is mentioned in the Simla and Karachi Agreements also”. Pakistan also suggested the formation of a mechanism to involve the Kashmiri people “at some stage” in the dialogue process.
“At some stage and point we must come up with a mechanism to associate with representatives of the Kashmiri people because it is their fate that you are deciding and they must be associated with the process. It is the most desirable thing to do,” Mr Khan said.