India, Pak exchange proposals on JK, cross-CBMs

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Islamabad, May 20: India and Pakistan today exchanged several proposals on Kashmir and cross Line of Control (LoC) Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs), including improving trade, and expressed determination to take effective action against terrorism.

The two countries also came close to arriving at certain agreements, including on Sir Creek and Siachen, saying these two issues were solvable. The issues were discussed at the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries here who reviewed the earlier four rounds of the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP) and prepared ground for the fifth round.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said at a press conference after his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir that work on various aspects of the CDP was still in progress. The positive thing was that there was general commitment on both sides, including the political leadership and the people, to improve bilateral ties Both sides raised several issues, including peace and Security and Jammu and Kashmir, and looked at other six points of the CDP.

''Both sides gave proposals .on how we can move forward. There was general discussion on cross-LoC CBMs, on how to remove the problems of people and make easier economic and commercial relations which have a great potential.

''Both sides made several proposals on improving cross-LoC measures and improving the existing measures. There was a fair amount of overdrive between Pakistani side and our side. Both put proposals on the table,'' he said in reply to a question on whether the Pakistan side had put forward any fresh proposals on Kashmir.

He, however, did not disclose any details of the proposals and said there was general discussion on Peace and Security and against terrorism and both sides agreed to take effective action against the menace.

''We need to deal with the issue. There are dangerous people who still harm and have the potential to harm.''

Describing Siachen and Sir Creek as ''solvable'' issues, the Foreign Secretary said both sides had not been able to find a solution which would be acceptable. However, considerable progress had been made on both. He hoped that Siachen would be made a 'mountain of peace'. Replying to a question, he said both sides attached great importance to the ceasefire between the two countries and expressed the desire to hold on to it.

Asked whether any agreements would be signed tomorrow at the talks between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, the Foreign Secretary said they were ''close to several agreements'' and were waiting to arrive at the final stage. The two sides also discussed the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, Mr Menon said, adding that both agreed to the the severity of the need for gas and its uninterrupted supply and the security of the pipeline.

He said after the January 6, 2004, commitments, there had been ''unparalleled'' intentions on both sides to narrow down the differences. Both sides had the will and determination to carry forward the process of improving bilateral relations. They also expressed satisfaction at what had been achieved so far.

Mr Menon said the two sides had also discussed the issue of prisoners, adding that he was informed that Pakistan had decided to release 99 Indian prisoners including 96 fishermen and three civilians.

The announcement was made today by Mr Rahman Malik, advisor to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on interior matters. India also on Saturday released 14 Pakistani fishermen.

There was no general discussion on Dawood Ibrahim as India had already given evidence to Pakistan. There was no need to give further evidence as he was on the Interpol list as well.

Even on Sarabjit, there was no discussion. There was general discussion on prisoners, he said adding that India had already conveyed its concern to Pakistani authorities several times in the past.

Meanwhile, the External Affairs Minister arrived here this afternoon to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Shah Mahnmood Qureshi tomorrow on carrying forward the CDP into its fifth round. In a statement issued after his arrival at the Chaklala Air Force Base, the External Affairs Minister said that during his discussions with Mr Qureshi, he hoped to consolidate the progress made in the bilateral relationship which provided a good basis for the fifth round of the CDP.

Earlier, a Joint Statement issuied after the Foreign Secretary -level talks said the discussions were held in a ''friendly and constructive manner.'' The two Foreign Secretaries reviewed the progress made by the two sides in the Fourth Round on the eight segments of the CDP including Peace and Security and Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs), Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage, Terrorism and Drug trafficking, Economic and Commercial Cooperation and Promotion of Friendly exchanges in various fields.

The External Affairs Minister said in his arrival statement several proposals in the political, economic and regional fields were on the anvil for consideration and implementation.

''Several proposals in the political, economic and regional fields are on the anvil for consideration and implementation. We approach the next round in a spirit of cooperation, trust and pragmatism. This predicated on an atmosphere free from terrorism, violence or the threat of it,'' he said.

He said during his last visit to Islamabad, he had had ''fruitful discussions'' with the Government of Pakistan and it had been the anticipation that the Fourth Round of the CDP would be productive and fruitful.

''I am glad that our two countries indeed made considerable progress on various issues of mutual interest during the year 2007,'' he added.

The External Affairs Minister said his present visit to Pakistan comes amid a new democratic environment of ''great promise''. He paid tributes to the people of Pakistan for successful conduct of the general election and expressed confidence that the present environment would help in addressing various issues related to peace, stability and economic development.

''I am, therefore, looking forward to meeting the leadership of Pakistan. I am sure my meetings with the President, Prime Minister, my colleague the Foreign Minister and other leaders of Pakistan would be useful for furthering peace, stability, people-to-people contact and accelerated economic development of both our countries, as well as our entire region,'' he said.

The External Affairs Minister will call on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani tomorrow before discussions with Mr Qureshi.

He also met Pakistani leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari today.

Mr Mukherjee said during his discussions with Mr Qureshi tomorrow, he hoped to consolidate the progress made in bilateral relationship, which provides a good basis for the fifth Round of the CDP.


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