‘Free movement across LoC central part of May 21 talks with Pakistan’

5 May 2008
The Daily Times

Islamabad: Indian PM, Mehbooba Mufti discuss Kashmir self-rule proposal * Singh says new government of Pakistan has made very good beginning By Iftikhar Gilani NEW DELHI: India has said the free movement of people and goods across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir would be a central part of discussions with Pakistan when External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee travels to Pakistan on May 21 to review the composite dialogue process. Foreign secretaries of both countries are meeting a day ahead, on May 20, to finalise the agenda for the ministerial meeting. Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh told People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti on Monday that his government was giving the peace process the highest priority. “The issue of increased cross-LoC co-operation through exchange of people, ideas and goods in Jammu and Kashmir will remain central to the discussions with Pakistan during the upcoming talks,” he told the PDP chief who had called on him. Dr Singh said the Indian government was committed to implementing the recommendations of the working groups regarding a host of confidence-building measures (CBM). “The union government will work with a renewed focus on the implementation of the recommendations of the working groups,” he said. He also assured Mufti that attempts to thwart or block the peace process would be strongly resisted. The PDP chief had expressed concern at the slowdown of the peace process and expressed fear that vested interests were out to hinder its progress. Self rule: Coming out of the meeting, Mufti said she also discussed the “broader contours” of her party’s self-rule proposal with the prime minister. She claimed that the proposal offered an inclusive solution accommodating wishes and aspirations of all the regions and sub-regions of Jammu and Kashmir as well as taking into account the legitimate concerns of India and Pakistan. Mufti also told the Indian prime minister that the people in Jammu and Kashmir had huge stakes in the consolidation and success of the peace and reconciliation process and they should not feel let down. “There are various quarters who are trying tooth-and-nail to sabotage the confidence-building process in Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, India’s political leadership has the onerous responsibility of vetoing the designs of the vested interests and give the much-needed final push to the peace process,” she told Dr Singh. She also demanded a simultaneous movement on both the internal as well as the cross-LoC CBMs to consolidate the peace process. “While on the internal front, the implementation of the recommendations of the working groups should be speeded up, on the external front there should be tangible movement forward on resumption of unhindered movement of people and goods through all the traditional cross-LoC routes,” she said. She also complained that New Delhi had recently withdrawn the scheme of providing incentives to the industry in Jammu and Kashmir had led to the closure of several units in Jammu and nearby areas. She sought the Indian prime minister’s intervention so that the scheme is continued. Pakistan govt: On the sidelines of a separate event here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while responding to questions said the new government of Pakistan had “begun very well”. “Despite difficulties, they have shown great statesmanship in tackling their problems,” he said. “We wish them well.” He made it clear that he had no intention of visiting Pakistan in the immediate future. “Let them settle down.” President Pervez Musharraf had invited Dr Singh to Pakistan. Singh had accepted the invitation but no decision has been made on the timing so far.