Watch out for the July jinx
Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar arrives for talks on Tuesday
India-Pakistan talks are suffering from the Ides of July over past two years. Experts now hope that July 27 talks between the two foreign ministers here show progress on the issues of concern, rather than engaging in verbal duels and slinging matches.
Last year’s foreign ministers’ talks, also held in July, in Islamabad had ended in acrimony, when Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi castigated GK Pillai for his remarks in presence of External Affairs Minister SM Krishna. In July 2009, the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Geelani had raised hackles and hyper-reaction in India over inclusion of Baluchistan in the joint statement.
Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar will reach New Delhi on Tuesday for talks with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna. As Indian side braces up to quiz Pakistan on 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Pakistani diplomats says they were fully ready to reply India’s core concern. “We cannot subvert a judicial process. Pakistan is ready to accommodate and address Indian concern within the judicial and legal framework,” they say.
Earlier, Indian officials made it clear that they were looking forward to a strong commitment and delivery of promises on the issue of terrorism and an assurance on conclusion of judicial trial against perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks. They promised that this gesture would be reciprocated generously, including beginning “substantive” discussions on Kashmir, core concern of Pakistan.
Pakistani officials say, they have already filed an appeal in the high court, against the order of the lower court to allow the government to take the voice samples from the accused as demanded by India. Pakistan penal laws do not permit taking voice samples of any accused. Rejecting that judicial process was moving at a snail’s pace, in a Rawalpindi court, they blame New Delhi for taking almost a year in granting permission to a Pakistani judicial commission to visit India. Still both sides have not been able to agree on the visit of the commission to India on reciprocal basis.
Government sources say, they were ready to expand the scope of talks with Islamabad by setting up India-Pakistan Commission to include cooperation in the fields of agriculture, climate change and health. The ministerial meeting will be preceded by talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries on Tuesday. They will review the talks held so far and prepare the agenda for ministerial level meeting.
The two sides are expected to announce a series of confidence building measures (CBMs) aimed at expanding trade and travel between the two parts of Kashmir. The CBMs include an increase in the number of opening points along the Line of Control, increasing the number of trading days from two to four, and increasing the frequency of the bus link between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. Currently, cross-LoC trade is conducted along the Muzaffarabad-Uri and Poonch-Rawalakot.
India has proposed three additional trading routes— Nauseri-Tithwal, Hajipur-Uri and Tattapani-Mendhar. Traders from both sides of the LoC have been demanding an increase in the number of trading days, resumption of telecommunication links between the two parts of Kashmir and inclusion of more items in the trade.
Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.