More CBMs, J-K Out Of Terror Loop: Pakistan
14 March 2007
The Indian Express
Islamabad: Pakistan today sought to keep the militant violence in Jammu and Kashmir out of the ambit of the joint anti-terror mechanism even as it agreed with India on putting in place a slew of measures like launch of Kargil-Skardu bus service and an early meeting on the Siachen issue. At the end of two-day Foreign Secretary-level talks here, Pakistan proposed some new cross-LoC confidence building measures, including allowing sports activities and launch of helicopter and postal services between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. For the first time since the two countries agreed to set up a joint working group (JWG) on tackling terrorism in Havana in September last, Pakistan openly expressed its opposition to discussing the violence in J&K within the confines of the mechanism. At a joint press conference with Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammad Khan said J-K was 'disputed' and should not be 'mixed' with the initiative that is between India and Pakistan only. 'On J-K, India and Pakistan are engaged in the most sustained and intensive dialogue that they have ever had,' Menon said. As first reported by The Sunday Express, Islamabad is said to be averse to discussing the violence in J&K under the auspices of the JWG. New Delhi, however, is keen that the issue cannot be delinked from the problem of terrorism faced by India. Menon had yesterday said that any act of terrorism on Indian soil had to be tackled under the JWG. Khan emphasised that they were keen on resolving all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. He wanted demilitarisation in the state as it would raise the 'comfort level of Kashmir' and was linked to solution of the problem. 'Demilitarisation (in J-K) is a good idea but this is functionally linked to the situation on the ground,' Menon said responding to a question. Emphasising that demilitarisation would depend on end to threat of violence, he said 'we have the responsibility to protect lives of our people'. Noting that India was keen to resolve the Kashmir issue, Menon said 'there is political will at the top leadership level' to take the relations forward. Khan underlined the need for moving from 'problem and dispute management to dispute resolution' and insisted that 'because of lack of political will, we are prevented from crossing the hurdles. We need to seize the opportunity.' 'The year 2007 is critical and can prove to be a watershed,' Khan said.