September 2004 News

Pakistan to table more proposals

3 September 2004
The Dawn
Qudssia Akhlaque

Islamabad: Pakistan will table more proposals related to Jammu and Kashmir and peace and security during the foreign ministers' talks with India in New Delhi this week, it is learnt. 'The proposals are basically aimed at ensuring some tangible and more encouraging outcome of the ongoing bilateral dialogue and one that can be sustained,' sources told Dawn on Friday. Some progress on confidence-building measures (CBMs) is expected. However, it is believed that settlement on what Pakistan insists is the core issue of Kashmir, and other disputes, including Siachen, Sir Creek and even Wullar Barrage, will take much more talking backed by top-level political commitment. Pakistan will also seek specific dates for talks on the proposed Muzaffarabad- Srinagar bus service from the Indian side, sources said. On the sidelines of the Saarc foreign ministers' meeting in Islamabad in July, Pakistan had sought dates from the Indian side. However, there has been no response from India since then. There is a deadlock over what documents the Kashmiris from both sides will use to cross the Line of Control (LoC). Pakistan in line with its fundamental position on the Kashmir dispute maintains that the LoC, a mere temporary dividing line between the occupied Kashmir and Azad Kashmir, should be crossed by travellers from both sides using state documents. This was the practice followed in the fifties. But, India, in line with its policy that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian union, wants travellers to use passports to cross the LoC. India seeks a settlement of the Kashmir dispute through conversion of the LoC into an international border. India may propose that either side can decide what travel documents are acceptable to it. There are also strong indications from the Indian camp that during the talks India is likely to propose a Jammu- Sialkot bus service. While Pakistan is keen to sustain the current dialogue process with India, there is growing concern in official quarters that no substantive progress has been made on resolving the key issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. Officials here say that during the talks in Delhi, Pakistan will again emphasise the need to set some timeframe for moving forward on the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. 'We cannot just go on talking for another 57 years,' is how one official put it. The latest statements from Delhi regarding 'Pakistan-supported cross-border terrorism' are being read in some circles in Pakistan as an attempt by the new Congress government to divert attention from the real issues and justify the lack of progress in the latest round of composite dialogue. However, incidents of violence have gone up in the valley. The latest round of composite dialogue on eight issues has not yielded any concrete results on the disputed areas such as the Siachen Glacier, Wullar Barrage, Sir Creek or Jammu and Kashmir. It is believed that in terms of its outcome the Pakistan-India 2004 composite dialogue has been quite similar to the composite dialogue held between the two countries in November 1998. In both the rounds, the two sides essentially reiterated their respective positions. No substantive progress towards the resolution of disputes was made. Only this time around, India has shown some flexibility on Siachen. However, while India has expressed willingness to demilitarize and re-locate its forces, it is not willing to withdraw troops to the pre-1984 positions, as demanded by Pakistan. India violated the LoC and occupied the Siachen glacier and surrounding areas in 1984. Unlike India which, with international support, was able to ensure that Pakistan vacate the Kargil heights it occupied in 1999, Pakistan has not been able to force India to end its illegal occupation of the Siachen area. Meanwhile, there is optimism on both sides that during the political dialogue at the foreign ministers level some gains will be made on bilateral relations. On Kashmir, according to reliable sources India has proposed through the J.N. Dixit-Tariq Aziz track that both sides agree to form a group to explore and study the various possible options for resolving the Kashmir dispute.


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