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India, Pak to hold Siachen talks on Friday

Source: PTI
Last updated on: April 02, 2007 18:08 IST
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India and Pakistan will hold defence secretary-level talks on Siachen on Friday in an effort to resolve the vexed issue.

The talks will be held in Islamabad, sources told PTI in Delhi on Monday after a meeting between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.

The two foreign ministers reviewed progress on Siachen and various other bilateral issues including Jammu and Kashmir and Sir Creek when they met on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Conference Summit.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also meet his Pakistan counterpart Shaukat Aziz in Delhi on Wednesday.

Speaking to journalists later, Kasuri said the two sides have agreed on dates for talks on Siachen, but refused to disclose it.

Kasuri has been insisting that the two countries were close to settling the issue and given the political will, an agreement could be clinched anytime.

The two sides had agreed to demilitarise the icy heights, but have failed to reach an understanding on how to do it.

India has maintained that there can be no demilitarisation till Pakistan agrees to 'iron clad' authentication of present troop positions of the respective countries.

On his meeting with Mukherjee, Kasuri said both sides agreed that bilateral relations were in a "healthy" state.

"We discussed various issues between the two countries and modalities regarding what is to be done next," he said.

"There was an agreement on what is to be done next and how to take these issues forward," Kasuri added.

On the first meeting of joint anti-terrorism mechanism recently in Islamabad, the Pakistan foreign minister said some viewed it with optimism while some did not.

Insisting that the meeting of the mechanism was a positive development, he said the two sides had agreed to meet again and chalked out a framework for working together to fight terrorism.

"Let us give them time," Kasuri said, cautioning against any attempt to indulge in "point scoring" on issues like whether evidence was shared or not.

Asked whether all the eight SAARC members could have a common approach to fight terrorism on the pattern of Indo-Pak joint anti-terror mechanism, he seemed to be disfavouring it.

"India and Pakistan have a history. There are issues on which we had differences. So it is better to resolve the issues between them bilaterally first," he said.

On the South Asia Free Trade Agreement, which Pakistan has refused to implement with regard to India, Kasuri said there are "slight differences" with regard to "some measures" which are "minor."

Kasuri said even in its absence, direct trade between the two countries had gone up by 400 per cent in last three years.

On Afghan President Hamid Karzai's reported remark that Taliban chief Mullah Omar was hiding in Pakistan, Kasuri denied any knowledge about the comment. He, however, added that he was "certain that he (Omar) is in Afghanistan. Why should he be in Pakistan?"

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