October 1998 News


Pakistan Denies Terrorism Support, Asks for Increase in LOC Monitors

17th October 1998
The Pioneer

As long as the Pakistanis know the locations of the monitors, the terrorists can be slipped in through other routes.

India and Pakistan reiterated their known positions on Kashmir on Saturday, but agreed to meet again and carry forward the dialogue at the next round of talks between the two Foreign Secrataries.

The agreement to continue the talks at a later stage can be seen as a positive development in the India-Pakistan dialogue, which has been stalled since 1994.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad said the two sides had "a useful exchange of views, in a frank and cordial manner." He added that the talks should be on a "compositive and integrated manner," a statement which has a positive overtones given that Pakistan had earlier been insisting on the primacy of Kashmir in the talks, and at times reacting as though it was the sole issue to be discussed.

India, meanwhile, told Pakistan that the legal status of Jammu and Kashmir was beyond question, and urged it to respect the 1971 status quo along the Line of Control by ceasing sponsorship of terrorism in the State.

Official sources said New Delhi flatly rejected Islamabad's demand that India reduce its force levels, stating that it was the sovereign right of every country to determine its troops strength in a particular region considering the ground realities.

Following the two-day talks, the cycle of India-Pakistan dialogue has been set into motion with Foreign Secretary K Raghunath and his Pakistani counterpart agreeing on a meeting once the eight-point agenda has been covered. The two officials will, in the next round, review the cycle of meetings and continue discussions on peace and security, and Kashmir.

Indian officials said India would respond positively to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's announcment of releasing all Indian fishermen and their fishing boats held in custody by the Pak authorities.

There were certain formalities to the concluded in India, such as getting the court's permission to release Pakistani fishermen in Indian custody. These would be worked out quickly, the officials said.

Kashmir has been a part of Indo-Pak dialogue for a long time, but this was the first time that it appeared as a separate and sole item on the day's agenda.

According to Pakistani spokesperson Tariq Altaf, both sides reiterated their known positions and exchanged perceptions on the subject. As Mr Ahmad explained, "when two sides get together to negotiate on difficult subjects, they need to state and restate their positions for better understanding of each other's position."

Describing the Kashmir issue as one of the most complex in the world, which was causing serious peace and security problems in the region, he said it would take considerable time and attention and that the two Foreign Secretaries will resume the discussion in the next round.

To persistent quieries from Pakistani journalists on what progress the two officials had made, Mr Altaf said it was "unrealistic to expect that we will come out with any concrete progress after a discussion of three hours."

Before the day's discussions had commenced, Mr Shamshad Ahmad dismissed charges of Pakistan's assistance to terrorism in Kashmir as "baseless allegations." He added: "The best way to verify these was to have neutral observers on both sides of the Line of Control."

He also added that the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan should be enhanced for this purpose. During Thursday's session, Mr Raghunath had conveyed to the other side that Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism from across the border must cease. That is the most important aspect of the Kashmir issue and would be the most important confidence building measure on the subject, he said.


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