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Proposal to unite Kashmiri families

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
December 28, 2004 19:11 IST
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India on Tuesday proposed to Pakistan five designated places along the border for interaction between divided families on both sides of Kashmir during specified periods.

At the conclusion of their two-day talks in Islamabad Tuesday, foreign secretaries Shyam Saran and Riaz Khokhar decided on a range of measures to mitigate the suffering of apprehended fishermen, civilian prisoners and missing defence personnel.

Building on the existing contacts between Directors General of Military Operations, they decided to promote regular contacts at designated places and explore further Confidence Building Measures along the international boundary and Line of Control.

The five identified meeting places on the LoC and international border are Mendhar, Poonch, Suchetgarh, Uri and Tangdhar, Saran told reporters at the end of the talks on the second round of the Composite Dialogue process.

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New Delhi suggested that such interactions could take place at designated time under joint security, Saran said, adding "this will be a big step towards promoting contacts between divided families and people of Kashmir on both sides". Pakistan has agreed to consider the Indian proposal.

Observing that the talks had ended on a "positive and optimistic note," Saran said India had assured Pakistan that it was serious on continuing the dialogue process including on Jammu and Kashmir to find a solution to the vexed issue.

Both sides discussed the J& K issue and agreed to carry forward the process in the light of the joint statement issued after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New York on September 24.

 The two sides "narrowed further" their differences on the draft agreement on pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles, and agreed to work towards its finalisation, a joint statement released after the talks said. 

The foreign secretaries also discussed the issues of peace and security including CBMs and reviewed the progress made during the meetings of experts on Nuclear and Conventional CBMs.

They agreed that technical meetings including of the Joint Study Group on Trade Matters headed by the Commerce Secretaries, Indian Coast Guards and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, Pakistan Rangers and BSF, expert-level dialogue on nuclear and conventional CBMs, technical-level meetings on bus service between and through Amritsar and Lahore and meeting between the Narcotics Control authorities would be held between January and June 2005.

The Foreign Secretaries would meet in New Delhi to review the overall progress in the Composite Dialogue in July-August 2005.

New Delhi and Islamabad, the joint statement said, agreed that immediate notification would be provided to respective High Commissions of arrested Indian and Pakistani nationals. Consular access would be provided to these nationals within three months of apprehension and their repatriation would be done immediately after completion of sentence and nationality verification.

A mechanism would be also be introduced for early repatriation, without sentencing of inadvertent crossers and a similar mechanism would be established for early release without sentencing of those under 16 years apprehended by either side.

The meetings on the other six subjects under Composite Dialogue -- Siachen, Tulbul Navigation Project, Sir Creek, Terrorism and Drug Trafficking, Economic and Commercial Cooperation and Promotion of Friendly Exchanges in Various Fields -- would be held on mutually agreed dates between April and June 2005.

The statement said the Foreign Ministers and the Prime Ministers of the two countries would meet during the SAARC Summit in Dhaka next month. External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh would visit Islamabad in February 2005 for bilateral discussions.

During his stay here, Saran called on Prime Minister Sahukat Aziz and Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri.

Earlier stories:

Indo-Pak foreign secy talks begin

Saran ready for Pak visit


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K J M Varma in Islamabad
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