Indian team due on Friday for LoC talks
24 October 2005
Islamabad: Pakistan said on Monday an official Indian delegation would arrive in Islamabad on Friday to discuss procedures holding up a proposed softening of the military control line in Kashmir to help relief effort after the October 8 killer earthquake in the region. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Pakistan had asked India to send the delegation “as soon as possible” for talks to settle modalities for the implementation of separate proposals made by the two countries and that a response from New Delhi was still awaited. But a ministry statement later said New Delhi had informed Islamabad that “in response to Pakistan’s formal proposal” the official delegation headed by a joint secretary in India’s Ministry of External Affairs would arrive here on October 28. Ministry spokesperson Tasneem Aslam told a news briefing Pakistan had formally proposed modalities to India for a two-way movement of Kashmiris on five points along the Line of Control (LoC) as a follow-up of President Pervez Musharraf’s statement in Azad Kashmir last week that Kashmiris should be allowed to meet each other, share each other’s grief, and help each other. “The suggested procedures provide for immediate access to members of divided families,” she said and added “We also agreed that officials from both sides can deliver relief assistance at the identified and agreed points on the Line of Control. We are ready to accept this arrangement on all the five points that we have proposed.” Ms Aslam said the Indian proposal was independent of the Pakistani proposal as New Delhi had “talked about establishing medical aid centres” at three points. “What we had proposed is (five) points from where Kashmiris can travel on both sides of the Line of Control and meet each other.” She said Pakistan would be responding to the Indian proposal later on Monday but added that Islamabad had already indicated that “we are ready to discuss the Indian proposals when our delegations meet to discuss modalities for crossing the Line of Control”. She said the most urgent and pressing need was to provide access to the divided Kashmiri families. They should be able to meet their relatives in this very, very difficult time.” Proposals from both sides for the softening of the highly militarized LoC for quake relief were made because some areas in Azad Kashmir had remained inaccessible to relief parties because of roadblocks caused by quake-triggered landslides in Jhelum and Neelum valleys but could be easily reached from the Indian-held Kashmir. Ms Aslam would not agree with a reporter’s suggestion that the two sides were delaying a decision while quake survivors direly needed aid and, speaking for Pakistan, said “We are not sitting on any proposal. We had already responded and if we are talking about the Indian proposal for relief assistance, it is only logical that first we should have agreed on points from where people will move.” She added “We have asked India to send a delegation as soon as possible. If they are ready to send a delegation today we will be ready to receive them.” Ms Aslam also told a questioner that Pakistan hoped a decision about the LoC relief and meeting points would be implemented “within this month”. The spokesperson announced that Senate chairman Mohammedmian Soomro would lead the Pakistan’s delegation to an international donors’ conference on relief assistance to Pakistan called by the United Nations in Geneva on Wednesday, with adviser to prime minister on finance Dr Salman Shah as deputy leader. She said Pakistan would present its relief requirements while the United Nations was doing the same “very forcefully”. “We will be telling (the conference) about the extent of the loss of life, extent of damage and what needs to be done in very immediate terms, because this conference is about relief assistance.” But she said Pakistan hoped the spirit of response shown by the international community to the quake disaster would continue not only in the relief phase but also in the reconstruction phase. She confirmed that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz would make a short trip to Moscow to attend a summit meeting on Wednesday of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a key six-nation regional security grouping where Pakistan has an observer’s status. “....this (visit) basically reflects the importance we attach to the SCO process,” she added. Ms Aslam said while Pakistan had accepted in principle Nato’s proposal for help in reconstruction received two days ago, the two sides would have discussions shortly to work out modalities. She said Pakistan had indicated to Nato its requirements such as reconstruction of hospitals, schools, bridges and roads.