'Track-2 diplomacy on Kashmir under way'
23 June 2004
Ihtasham ul Haque
Islamabad: India and Pakistan have asked the group of their ex-bureaucrats, former army generals and intellectuals to find out an acceptable solution of the Kashmir issue at their meeting to be held in New Delhi on Aug 27. The members of the Track-2 diplomacy group had met in Lahore on May 22-24 and would now be meeting in New Delhi from August 27 to Sept 4 to discuss measures aimed at improving bilateral relations and finding out a solution of the Kashmir problem, said former foreign secretary Niaz A. Naik. Talking to Dawn, he said that apart from the Kashmir dispute the meeting would discuss internal developments in the two countries, terrorism, and matters pertaining to trade and people-to-people contacts. He said the Pakistani delegation would comprise himself, Gen (retd) K.M. Arif and Lt-Gen (retd) Omar. The Indian side will be represented by former foreign secretary Ras Gohtra, former deputy chief of naval staff K.K. Nayar and Prof Mateen Zubari. Mr Naik, who would head the Pakistan team, said he and his Indian counterparts enjoyed full support of the their governments to make the meeting 'result-oriented' as far as the Kashmir issue was concerned. 'I believe we can achieve the desired success,' he said. He said the meeting held in Lahore on May 22 was the 23rd session of the group, adding that the process started many years ago when its first meeting was held at Neem Rana Fort in the Indian state of Haryana. He said that after their 24th meeting in August they would brief their governments about the outcome of those deliberations. In reply to a question, he said there were more chances to settle the Kashmir dispute during the Congress government in India and referred an interview of the late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in which he had said that he and the late Gen Zia were close to reaching an agreement on the issue. 'We must understand that Pakistan has already met the Indian demand of discussing the trade-related issues on priority. Delhi has benefited from the South Asian Free Trade Agreement and now Kashmir is bound to be discussed,' he maintained. Answering another question, he said an expected meeting between President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the UN General Assembly session in September could further help improve bilateral relations.