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|February 26, 1999|
Indian, Pakistani foreign ministers to meet on SAARC sidelines
The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan will meet in Colombo in the middle of the next month on the sidelines of a conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation to discuss all subjects of mutual concern, including nuclear issues.
This was stated by External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh in the Rajya Sabha today while responding to members who sought clarifications on his suo moto statement on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan.
Singh said the dialogue with Pakistan would be held at the levels of experts, foreign secretaries and foreign ministers. He said no third party mediation would be involved in the resolution of disputes between the two countries.
Some foreign powers had tried to "fish in troubled water" in the sub-continent, but India had told them there is no room for outside intervention, he said.
Denying that the US had played any role in the "bus diplomacy" initiated by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, Singh said that whenever any such suggestion for mediation came from the United States or the United Kingdom, it was rejected outright.
He said India had pointed out to all countries that "India and Pakistan were born of the same wound; we talk the same language and we don't need interpreters to convey to each other what we are doing".
He felt it is now for the two countries to see that "the dialogue [initiated by the two prime ministers] does not run aground due to inaction".
Replying to a member, he said the Simla Agreement remains the "cornerstone" for the conduct of bilateral relations between the two countries.
He told the members that India had taken up with Pakistan the issue of renovation and management of Sikh shrines in that country and Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharief has directed his foreign office to do the needful.
India has also called for relaxation of visa rules for those wanting to go on pilgrimage to Pakistan on the occasion of the tercentenary of the Khalsa Panth, he said.
Singh admitted that trade relations between the two countries have not registered sufficient progress. But a beginning has been made with India buying sugar from Pakistan.
India is also negotiating the purchase of power from its neighbour.
On the confusion prevailing on India's stand on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, he said, "India's stand is crystal clear... The statement of the prime minister on the issue stands." The prime minister had told the UN General Assembly that India would not come in the way of the CTBT coming into force in September.
On the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, Singh said, "We are engaged in serious and meaningful negotiations." At the Geneva conference on disarmament, it had been suggested that an ad-hoc committee be set up to take steps to prevent the export of weapons technology.
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