Jammu, Kashmir 'legally' Part Of India, Says Saran
27 December 2004
Islamabad: Islamabad and New Delhi are working out to set a calendar for the second round of negotiations in June or July next year, said Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran who resumes today bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart to conclude first yearly round of parleys on contentious bilateral issues. While briefing media on Monday after first day of talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Saran was upbeat with the 'matching response' he recalled to have received from Pakistani side on the first day of negotiations on nuclear, security Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and other bilateral issues. He said Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh would visit Pakistan in February next year to review the overall progress on composite dialogue process. Pakistan and India started bilateral negotiations early 2004 after joint press statement in Islamabad vowing to resolve all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, through peaceful means. Following technical level talks composite parleys at foreign secretary-level between the two countries started in June this year. 'India, in fact, is not committed to settling Kashmir dispute and wants to continue the normalization process with Islamabad minus Kashmir,' observed Professor Khalid, an expert on Indian affairs. He said seeking delay in resuming second round of talks with Pakistan essentially means that New Delhi does not want to come up with any concrete proposal to resolve the Kashmir issue, he concluded. Pakistani and Indian Foreign Secretaries hold talks on Jammu and Kashmir which Saran said is very complex issue ' to find solution'. To a query as on what basis India holds today talks with Pakistan - Kashmir as an integral part of India or as a disputed territory - the visiting foreign secretary reiterated 'legal position' of New Delhi that entire Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. However, he said Delhi is prepared to hold serious talks on the issue. 'We are not trying to avoid discussion on Jammu and Kashmir, and are ready to engage in serious dialogue on Kashmir,' Saran said, adding India believes in the dialogue process and something (solution of valley dispute) which seems invisible might be visible in future. He said Kashmir's solution is not going to emerge out of a particular event but out of a dialogue process to which both countries needs to seriously engage. Saran said Indian approach to find a solution of Kashmir issue is based on the aspirations of its people that he interpreted also include the people of Kashmir. To a query about the framework to settle Kashmir dispute, Saran said, 'the sooner the better.' But he was quick to add, 'I don't think we can put artificial time lines on the issue.' The Indian foreign secretary announced the CBMs that broadly include lifting of visa restrictions for senior citizens above 65, children below 12, medical treatment to 20 more children and visas to students on case-to-case basis. Saran said senior citizens aged 65 and above, children below 12 and 'groups' (of people) do not need to approach Indian High Commission in Islamabad and now they can get their visas stamped at Atari (Wagha) border near Lahore. Diplomatic observers find the proposal on the subject impracticable as children and senior citizens logistically can not go to the neighbouring country without their young relatives accompany them. While recalling January 6 this year's joint press statement, he said, 'It is extremely important for Islamabad to adhere to its assurance not to allow territory under its control to be used for 'cross border terrorism' purpose.' He said Islamabad needs to do 'much more' to address 'cross border terrorism' as phenomena. While agreeing with President Musharraf, he said both the sides should take measures to meet 'trust deficit'. He said both sides are looking forward to a series of meetings in future which include call-ons of two prime ministers on the sidelines of the 13th SAARC summit at Dhaka next month. Shyam Saran said New Delhi has also proposed to open up more religious shrines in both the countries to allow maximum number of pilgrims to visit. He underlined the need to ameliorate the sufferings of the fishermen and civilian prisoners, saying 'There is a willingness on both sides to move ahead on such issues.' Meanwhile, On the day first of the two-day foreign secretaries talks, India assured Pakistan that Kashmir issue would not be put on the back burner and serious and sustained efforts would be made for its resolution along with all other outstanding issues between Islamabad and New Delhi. India, however, raised the issue of so called 'cross border terrorism' saying the infiltration has reduced considerably in the past few months but it has not ended completely, sources privy to the talks between the foreign secretaries of the South Asian states confided to The Nation. Islamabad and New Delhi on Monday kick started their two-day talks at the top diplomatic level here with Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar leading Pakistani side and the Indian delegation being led by his counterpart in New Delhi, Shyam Saran. The two sides, on the first day of their talks, reviewed the progress made in other rounds of dialogue over the past year, especially on the nuclear and conventional 'confidence-building measures' between the two countries. They discussed Peace and Security, Confidence Building Measures, and the Kashmir issue was left to be deliberated upon in detail on day second (today) of the negotiations. The sources said Islamabad, however, raised its concern over the sluggishness of Kashmir talks as compared to somewhat nimbleness on other issues such as the CBMs. To this, the Indian Foreign Secretary responded with assurance that Kashmir issue would not be put on the back burner, saying that his country wish the talks on Kashmir moving in tandem with those on confidence building measures. Saran acknowledged that Kashmir is an important issue that needs to be resolved through sustained talks. He said the solution to Kashmir issue would come out of a dialogue process, the source said. According to sources, the two sides are likely to finalise agreements on setting up a nuclear hotline and on upgrading a military hotline as talks on these matters in the context of CBMs were very positive. However, both sides have ruled out any progress on pre-notification for missile tests in the two-day talks. The sources said Islamabad also came up with its opposition to the installation of anti-ballistic missile system in the region, as it would accelerate the arms race in South Asia. Pakistan also raised the issue of Baglihar Dam while urging India to agree on a meeting of secretaries of water and power aimed at the bilateral resolution of matter but the Indian side did not respond positively, the sources said. Pakistani side told the Indian delegation that it would have to move to World Bank or neutral expert in case the issue is not resolved through bilateral means. The talks on Monday also dealt with issues such as drugs, maritime issues, and a bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, re-opening of consulates in Karachi and Mumbai as well as Khokharapar-Monabao rail link. The two sides also discussed the issues of fishermen's detention and prisoners while reaffirming their pledge to accelerate the process of their release on humanitarian grounds. On Jinnah House, Pakistani negotiators asked India that the historical site should be handed over in principal to the government of Pakistan. However, they said that Islamabad is ready to explore other sites for the reopening of its consulate in Mumbai. Briefing the journalists later, the Foreign Office Spokesman Masood Khan said Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan today made forward movement in some of the confidence- building measures and agreed to sustain the dialogue process and make it result-oriented. He said, 'In some areas, there has been a forward movement.' However, he did not elaborate when asked about the progress on CBMs being discussed by the two countries. He said both the sides also put forward proposals relating to peace and security, which have to be sifted and analysed before they could be turned into mutually beneficial CBMs. He, however, made it clear that current talks are of preliminary nature and Islamabad is not going to come up with any formal proposal on Kashmir issue as the two sides discuss the core matter on Tuesday. Khan said the Kashmir issue cannot be put on the back burner. He said there should be 'two- way flexibility' and a solution on it must be expedited. He said, 'We do not have to stick to our rigid stand, otherwise, there can't be forward movement.' Terming Kashmir a 'complex' issue, he said, 'It is not intractable, as we are capable of solving this problem. He said no artificial deadlines could be given for the resolution of the core issue but at the same time we are against any indefinite dialogue to reach some settlement on Kashmir. Talking about the Monday's discussions on nuclear and conventional CBMs, Khan said these talks must be sustained and should be result-oriented. He said efforts are being made to narrow down difference on pre-notification of missile testing. He said in the conventional sphere many things are being discussed such as size of troops, reduction in military equipment acquisition, troops reduction in Held Kashmir and end to human rights violations there. Khan, however, acknowledged that the people of held valley are sill far from receiving the impact of CBMs that, he said, is the dire need of the hour. To a query, Khan said both Islamabad and New Delhi know each other's maximalist positions on Kashmir, which they have adhered to for half the century. He said for a result-oriented dialogue, we must give talks all the opportunity. Khan said both the countries have to work very hard and not stick to rigid positions. The Composite Dialogue process is for the betterment of the entire region, he said. To a question about Pakistan's stated position on UN resolutions, he said, 'You do not abandon your stated position unless there is a ray of hope.' 'It is a requirement that the collective genius of Pakistan and India be imbued with a new spirit to bring peace and security to the region which gives Kashmiris their freedom. In his opening statement, earlier, he said the talks were held in a constructive and cordial atmosphere with both the sides agreeing to continue with the peace process. He said Riaz Khokhar conveyed sympathy and condolences of the government of Pakistan to the government and people of India over the massive destruction in southern India. President Pervez Musharraf has called for 'swift and concerted' international efforts to deal with the quake, he said. Khan said the Indian foreign secretary had 'thanked the government and the people of Pakistan for these expressions of support and condolences.'