“It is important that as responsible states, we take ownership for our affairs”: Khar
Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan attempted to put in place a sustained mechanism of dialogue to explore convergences within the stated positions. As sartorially sharp Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna met his immaculately dressed and Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, both decided to adopt a cooperative mode to address matters, whether terrorism or Jammu and Kashmir. “We must make every effort to narrowing divergences and building convergences. It is important that as responsible states, we take ownership for our affairs,” said Khar, at a brief media interaction. Significantly, it had been decided in the meeting that lasted for two-and-half hours that Pakistan will not mention the Kashmir issue at the press interaction at Hyderabad House, lest it give the media a reason to wreck the “feel good” factor. Instead, it was left to Krishna to announce that both sides will continue discussions on Pakistan’s core concern. “On Jammu and Kashmir, we will continue discussions with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences. Meanwhile, for the welfare of the people on both sides of the LoC, we have announced additional measures on cross-LoC travel and trade,” he said.
Later at a joint press conference addressed by foreign secretaries they agreed that a deeper level of engagement was necessary to build understanding and trust to tackle the difficult issues. They mentioned that apolitical will existed in both countries to forge and craft new relationship and move forward but with cautions optimism.
Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said it was intention of his government to broaden cooperation with India n the issue of counter-terrorism as they have with rest of world.
His counterpart Nirupama Rao in her last press interaction before retiring on July 30 also said the focus was to lift fog on the relationship in order to set a positive atmosphere. She also emphatically stated that India side did expressed resentment over Pakistan Foreign Ministers meetings with Hurriyat leaders ahead of her official engagements. “We had different view on that subject (meeting Hurriyat). We expressed our concerns in a frank and candid manner,” she said.
Defending meeting with Hurriyat, Bashir said in a democratic polity intention was to reach out. “The matter of meetings should not be construed in any manner, unintentionally or by design to cast shadow on talks,” he added. Rao, hastily added that a future needs to be built in an environment free from violence. Both also decided to refrain from encouraging propaganda against each other. Asked, if Pakistan will now gag Hafiz Mohamamd Sayeed, chief of banned Lashkar-e-Toiba, Bashir maintained that an individual’s views should not be construed as the views of state.
On the issue of counter-terrorism cooperation, Rao said that there was no move to revive joint anti-terrorism mechanism (JATM), which had failed to stop Mumbai attacks. “There is a certain medium now to exchange information on counter terrorism. There is contact and communication between home ministeries,” she said, while exhorting Pakistan to conclude judicial trial against perpetrators of Mumbai attacks at a Rawalpindi court. She also assured to share relevant details of investigations of Samjhauta Express train bombing with Pakistan. Bashir struck a cautious note, telling Indian media that both sides have to make a conscious effort to be respectful of each other and to be mindful of concerns.
Earlier, Pakistan Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told media that there was need to invest more in building mutual trust; infuse greater political will in resolving all outstanding issues through peaceful means; and continue to work the process of dialogue to deepen our understanding.
At the talks:
• List of 21 permissible items for Cross-LoC trade to be respected by both sides.
• Both countries will provide adequate facilities at their trade facilitation centres.
• The number of trading days enhanced from two to sour days a week. Truck movements shall take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, both on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes
• Regular meetings between the Chambers of Commerce and traders of both sides will be facilitated.
• Existing telephone communication facilities should be strengthened. when deemed necessary.
• Cross-LoC travel will be expanded to include visits for tourism and religious pilgrimage.
• Facilities including waiting area, terminals and clearing procedures at the operational crossing points will be streamlined.
• Bus service between Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes will operator every Monday.
• Application forms and other documentation needed for travel across the LoC will be exchanged by email between designated authorities of both sides.
• Processing time for applications shall not be more than 45 days. Six-month multiple-entry cross-LoC travel permits will be allowed.
Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.