Pak Seeks To Keep J&K Violence Out Of Anti-Terror Mechanism
14 March 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Pakistan today sought to keep the militant violence in Jammu and Kashmir out of the ambit of the joint Anti-Terror Mechanism (ATM) 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 on tackling terrorism in Havana in September last, Pakistan openly expressed its opposition to discussing the violence in Jammu and Kashmir within the confines of the mechanism. At a joint press conference with Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammad Khan said Jammu and Kashmir was 'disputed' and should not be 'mixed' with the initiative which is between India and Pakistan only. Islamabad is said to be averse to discussing the violence in Jammu and Kashmir under the auspices of the JWG while New Delhi 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 has to be tackled under the JWG. The JWG agreed upon by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf had met for the first time here recently. 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. 'We are engaged in intensive dialogue on Kashmir and it is our intention to resolve it,' he said while noting that the two countries have never had such sustained and focussed discussions on the issue. 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.' He said the year 2007 is a 'critical year and can prove to be a watershed'. Stressing the need for 'turning a new page in our relations', Khan said there was a change in the international environment and 'quality of discussions that have taken place strengthen the prospects of success'. 'There is need for moving from problem and dispute management to dispute resolution,' he said. Khan said discussions on Jammu and Kashmir have been taking place at various levels, leadership level, Foreign Minister-level, within the composite dialogue and other channels. Many ideas have come up which have shaped parameters of these discussions, he said, adding there was need to sustain the peace process, with focus on J&K. During his meeting with Menon, he said the two sides recognised the need for making progress. Wondering why there were doubts over jurisdiction of the anti-terror mechanism, Menon said its mandate had been clearly outlined in the statement issued in Havana. New Delhi says the mechanism has to deal with any violence that takes place anywhere on Indian territory, including Jammu and Kashmir. After last week's anti-terror mechanism meeting, the two sides had agreed to share information to help curb terrorism that affects both the countries. 'Terrorism is enemy for both the countries. I hope we can make it productive,' Menon said refusing to share details of what evidence has been shared with Pakistan with regard to terror acts under the mechanism. Khan said the first and foremost priority for the mechanism was to prevent future acts of terrorism. On Jammu and Kashmir, he said it was important that the two countries remained engaged in dialogue and get results. Agreeing with Menon, Khan said it was important to make progress to achieve the goal of settling the longstanding problem. 'It is our belief that when we address this (issue) successfully, it will turn a new chapter in relations between us and for the region,' the Pakistani Foreign Secretary said. The two sides agreed to ensure operationalisation of the truck service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and operationalisation and rationalisation of five crossing points at the LoC. The two countries also decided that their Defence Secretaries along with their Director Generals of Military Operations would meet soon to discuss the Siachen issue. 'We are looking at a set of ideas together,' Menon said. 'We both have to agree to a solution,' he said adding, New Delhi has proposed a date for the meeting which Pakistan will consider. The two sides also agreed to hold regular discussions on security doctrines related to nuclear CBMs. They also agreed to expedite negotiations to conclude an agreement on prevention of incidents at sea and fully observe the ceasefire at the Line of Control. The two sides will also conclude and sign a framework agreement on speedy return of inadvertent border crossers. The Indian side raised the issue of launch of Kargil-Skardu bus service and Pakistan agreed to consider it, Menon said, adding the two sides will discuss modalities in this regard. The two countries agreed to conclude an agreement on 'No Development of New Posts and Defence Works' along the LoC and proposed drafts for new border control guidelines along the International Border. They will also work to finalise a liberalised visa regime, including a proposal for group tourism, during the fourth round of composite dialogue. The two Foreign Secretaries, who held a joint press conference for the first time in several years, also announced decision to ensure early implementation of the Jammu and Kashmir-related CBMs which have already been agreed. On the issue of ensuring humane treatment for prisoners of the two countries, they said the committee of retired judges has been established and it would meet in a few months. 'We are determined to ensure humanitarian treatment to prisoners...We have done it but there is more to be done,' Menon said. On peace and security, Khan said the two sides acknowledged elements that have been concluded and reviewed progress on suggestions that have been made. 'We have agreed there should be regular expert level discussions on doctrines for ensuring security environment of strategic deterrence through consultations,' the Pakistan Foreign Secretary said. The two sides also agreed to conclude and sign an agreement on modalities for the conduct of quarterly flag meetings at the sectors to be agreed upon. The two sides will conclude during the fourth round bilateral visa agreement, agreement on Consular access and review the Protocol on Visits to Religious Places.