As talks fail, Pakistan again
calls for third-party mediation
Squarely blaming India for the failure of their dialogue on outstanding issues, Pakistan today again called for third-party intervention.
Speaking to the media after the last item on the agenda, promotion of friendly and cultural exchanges, too failed to make any headway, Pakistan foreign office spokesman Tariq Altaf said when two sides cannot resolve their problems bilaterally, the only way out is to have a third party intervene or mediate.
"We are prepared for any manner of such intervention, whether at the UN or International Court of Justice, or any other international forum," he added.
Altaf said Pakistan had come to New Delhi with an open mind, but was disappointed by India's "unwillingness" to settle problems.
He added that unless the disputes between the two countries, including the "core issue" of Jammu and Kashmir, are resolved, it will not be possible to forge friendly relations.
As agreed earlier, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed will visit New Delhi in February for the second round of dialogue on peace and security, including confidence-building measures and Kashmir.
The first round of the resumed dialogue between the two foreign secretaries was held in Islamabad last month.
India makes 22 proposals to improve ties
Today's talks too went the way of the discussions on five other issues and failed to make much headway, though the two sides decided to start the Delhi-Lahore bus service at the earliest.
Briefing the media after a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Roshan Zamir, Culture Secretary R V V Ayyer said it was agreed that the official delegations of the two countries would meet by November 20 to finalise an agreement on vehicular passenger traffic and the operational and commercial aspects of the bus service.
He said the two sides had decided to continue their discussions in the next round of bilateral dialogue. The dates and venue have not yet been decided.
India, Ayyer said, gave 22 detailed proposals to the Pakistanis for promoting relations between the two countries in art and culture, youth affairs, sports, information, and media.
Both sides agreed that visas for railway and airline personnel would be granted within a specified time frame not exceeding 30 days. "We proposed enhanced interaction in the fields of media, including flow of newspapers and periodicals between our two countries. We also proposed that both countries facilitate visits of journalists and agree to the posting of more newspaper and news agency journalists on a reciprocal basis."
India also urged Pakistan to increase the number of shrines open to visits by Indian pilgrims.
But the Pakistanis were told that the sanctity of the shrines must be maintained during such visits. "It is unfortunate that during the visits of Indian pilgrims to Pakistan, they have been subjected to hostile anti-India propaganda within the premises of the gurdwaras. We asked Pakistan to take all necessary steps to ensure that these activities are not permitted," Ayyer said.
Ayyer said India conveyed to Pakistan its desire that the process of repatriating all fishermen in each other's custody be completed by November 30. Pakistan was also requested to release the 40 fishermen arrested by it on October 30.
With respect to civilian prisoners, both sides noted that there had been no exchange since 1991. "We have since early this year conveyed to Pakistan, through diplomatic channels, details of 67 Pakistani civilian prisoners ready for repatriation." Twenty-one of them, he said, have already gone back while the repatriation of the rest is at various stages.
India proposed that civilian prisoners be repatriated immediately on completion of sentences once travel documents are made available. Both sides agreed to a meeting of the officials concerned to ensure this.
Tourist visas for groups of Pak nationals
Pakistan was also told that India is introducing tourist visas for Pakistani nationals travelling in a group of not less than 10 and not more than 50 people for a period of 14 days through approved tour operators or travel agents.
Pakistan was asked to consider extending a similar facility to Indian nationals to allow for greater contact between the peoples.
Pakistan replied that it has liberalised its visa regime for Indians. The details will be conveyed later.
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