Islamabad to host nuclear, conventional CBMs meet in September
India and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed to continue the dialogue resumed early this year since after 26/11 to sort out all outstanding issues. The first such engagement by expert groups on nuclear and conventional CBMs (confidence building measures) will be held in Islamabad in September.
A joint statement issued after a meeting between External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar here said talks were held in “candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere” and both attached importance to promote peace and security through CBMs.
Listing meetings at different levels to be held on dates to be decided through diplomatic channels on all pending issues, both decided for the foreign ministers to review the progress in Islamabad in the first half of 2012. These include talks on Jammu and Kashmir, promotion of friendly exchanges, Siachen, Sir Creek and secretary-level meetings on counter-terrorism, including progress of Mumbai trial, narcotics,
humanitarian issues, commercial and economic cooperation, Wullar Barrage-Tulbul navigational project.
Though a new liberal visa agreement did not emerge from the meeting, the joint statement noted satisfaction on the progress made for its finalisation to facilitate people-to-people, business-to-business and sports contacts. The ministers also emphasised promotion of cooperation including facilitating visits to religious shrines, media exchanges, holding of sports tournaments and cessation of hostile propaganda against each other.
Both sides agreed on continued discussions in the Kashmir issue in a purposeful and forward looking manner to find a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences and unleashed cross-LoC (Line of Control) CBMs on travel and trade, including issue of six-month multiple entry permits.
The joint statement also announced resumption of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission and said the ministers agreed to increase bilateral trade and economic engagement by early establishment of a non-discriminatory trade regime that includes reduction or removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to redress the trade imbalance.
Kashmir-specific issues include expansion of the cross-LoC travel for tourism and pilgrimage, modalities of which were left to be decided, exchange of travel applications and documents through emails by authorities to expedite clearance and setting an upper limit of 45 days for such clearance. Also announced is the cross-LoC bus every Monday between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and between Poonch and Rawalkot.
On the cross-LoC trade front, agreement was reached to increase the trading days from two to four every week from Tuesday to Friday on both Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkot routes and review of the trading list of 21 items for sale and purchase by the two sides.
Strengthening of existing telephone communication, regular meetings between chambers of commerce and traders of both sides and more meetings of the designated authorities were other CBMs announced. More cross-LoC travel and trade measures were promised in the form of meetings of the Joint Working Group every six months.
On terrorism posing a continuing threat to peace and security, both reiterated the firm and undiluted commitment to fight and eliminate this scourge in all its forms and manifestations. They agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism to bring those responsible for terror crimes to justice.
Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.