Foreign Secretaries hold informal talks on Kashmir, other issues
26 December 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Islamabad: Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan tonight held informal talks over dinner on the broad contours of the second round of the composite dialogue process beginning here tomorrow on Kashmir and other contentious issues. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who arrived here from North West Frontier Province’s capital Peshawar town this evening met his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokhar over dinner and held informal talks on a host of issues including the vexed Kashmir issue and other items on which officials of the two countries have been discussing since early this year. Officials described the talks as informal discussions to broadly set parameters for formal talks on Jammu and Kashmir, peace and security and CBMs, which the two officials were designated to discuss under the composite dialogue process initiated early this year. Besides reviewing the progress of the first round and to discuss the three items listed to them, the two top officials also would fix a calendar for official level talks on Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barriage, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields. Ahead of formal talks, Pakistan indicated today that it will put forward some formal proposals on the nuclear and conventional CBMs as well as to resolve the Kashmir issue. Asked about reports about it, Pakistan foreign office spokesman Masood Khan said that evolution of proposals is a joint responsibility of both the sides we shall try to hear each other out to try to move forward. India is expected to approach the talks with plans to propose a visa-on- arrival scheme, which includes granting visa on arrival to all Pakistani nationals above the age of 65 and children below 12, media reports quoted officials as saying. 'Pakistan will put on the table some additional proposals on nuclear and conventional CBMs as well as float fresh ideas pertaining to the Kashmir issue,' local daily 'Dawn’ quoted Pakistan foreign office officials as saying. 'We would like to join them (Indians) in an earnest search for solutions to the Kashmir issue for sustaining the dialogue and making it move forward meaningfully on Kashmir,' the officials said. 'We would like the Indian side to seriously consider the proposals on peace and security and on Kashmir and we hope Indians will show willingness to move forward and not remain mired in rigid positions,' they said. When contacted Pakistan foreign office spokesman, Masood Khan did not contradict the news of Pakistans plans to float new ideas on both Kashmir and CBMs front but at the same declined to elaborate what the new ideas going to be. The new Indian proposal if it materialises would ease pressure as visas can be issued at Wagah and Attari border points for old people and school children who want to visit India, the officials said. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who arrived in Peshawar Shyam yesterday, will hold informal talks with the Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar over dinner tonight to broadly discuss the contours of their talks scheduled to be held tomorrow and Tuesday. Pakistan’s plans to float new ideas to resolve Kashmir was significant as Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz during his visit to New Delhi in November had denied that Islamabad wants to put forward idea of dividing Kashmir on both sides floated by President Gen Pervez Musharraf. The first round of the composite dialogue process initiated by previous Vajpayee Government early this year ended with both sides reiterating their stands on the Kashmir and other contentious issues. Under the agreed format, Foreign Secretaries of both countries would discuss, peace, security, Kashmir and CBMs. The rest of the items, Siachen, Sir Creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, Wullar barrage, economic and commercial co-operation and promotion of friendly exchange in various fields will be discussed by concerned officials. The two Foreign Secretaries were expected to set a calendar for the talks on these issues. Besides the agreed issues, the two Foreign Secretaries will also discuss informally ways and means to iron out differences over the travel document to be carried by passengers in the proposed bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. The two officials would also discuss opening of consulates in Karachi and Mumbai, rail link between Munnabao and Khokhrapar and the differences over the hydro power project being built by India on the river Chenab at Baglihar in Jammu and Kashmir. On the nuclear and conventional CBMs the two sides held comprehensive round of talks this month here but without agreement on advance notification of missile test firing as well as hotline contacts between Foreign Secretaries to deal with emergencies relating to nuclear weapons.