Indo-Pak talks tomorrow: More cross-LoC bus services on agenda

19 May 2008

New Delhi: Keen to take the peace process with Pakistan forward, India is expected to press for launch of more cross-LoC bus services and early operationalisation of the truck service when the two sides resume the composite dialogue in Islamabad tomorrow. The Indian side is also expected to propose increasing the frequency of fortnightly Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot bus services to make these weekly, official sources said here today. The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries will meet tomorrow to set the agenda for talks between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday, which will mark India's first high-level contact with the new Pakistan government. During the much-delayed talks, the two sides will review the fourth round of Composite Dialogue and assess progress made on eight issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism, Siachen, Sir Creek and CBMs. At the talks, the Indian side is expected to press for launch of Kargil-Skardu and Jammu-Sialkot bus services as part of additional initiatives to increase contacts between people on two sides of the LoC, the sources said. The two sides will also discuss operationalisation of the truck service on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route, they said. The two countries have already decided to launch the truck service to boost cross-LoC trade but lack of preparedness on part of the Pakistani side has been delaying the initiative. India has already made all preparations, including widening the road between Baramulla and Kaman Post, the last point on this side of LoC, and establishing other infrastructural facilities. Liberalisation of the permit system used for travel across the LoC will also be on the agenda, the sources said. The two sides will also deliberate on liberalisation of visa norms to encourage more travel between the two countries. India has already made several proposals, including packaged tours and increasing the number of pilgrim places that could be visited by people from the other country. Mukherjee and Qureshi will also discuss ways to resolve the vexed Siachen issue. The two sides have already agreed in principle to demilitarise the mountainous zone but Pakistan has been refusing to authenticate the present locations of troops of the two countries. India, while favouring conversion of Siachen into a 'mountain of peace', has refused to relocate the troops without proper authentication. A way forward will also be discussed on Sir Creek, regarding which the two countries have already conducted surveys of marshy disputed border and exchanged maps.