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Special Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary on India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary level talks

January 18, 2006

OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON (SHRI NAVTEJ SARNA): Good evening everybody and welcome to this special briefing by the Foreign Secretary on the just concluded discussions between India and Pakistan at the FS level. Foreign Secretary is, of course, also accompanied by High Commissioner Menon. May I first request the Foreign Secretary to address the Press and then he will take questions subject to availability of time.

FOREIGN SECRETARY (SHRI SHYAM SARAN): Thank you very much and good evening to all of you.

As you are aware, we have just concluded the inaugural session, in a sense, of the Third Round of the Composite Dialogue between India and Pakistan. This first meeting of the Third Round focused on two connected issues. One is peace and security including confidence-building measures and the other is Jammu and Kashmir. So, we had two sessions spreading over the last couple of days. We concluded the last session today.

I think, yesterday Spokesman was able to give you some idea of the issues that were discussed during yesterday's meeting on peace and security and confidence-building measures. Today we focused on Jammu and Kashmir. We had a review of the Second Round of our Composite Dialogue. It would be fair to say that both sides assessed the results of the Second Round in a positive manner.

There are a number of things that were achieved during the Second Round. I will draw your attention to some of the recent achievements. For example, we were able to conclude an agreement on the pre-notification of missile tests; we were able to also inaugurate the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service; we were able to also agree on meeting points along the Line of Control; with the earthquake which took place sometime back, we also agreed upon five crossing points at the LoC; we have also quite significantly increased the exchange of peoples across the borders. According to the figures that we have, in 2004 the visas issued by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was roughly about 60,000 and in 2005 it exceeded 90,000. So, you can see a very significant jump in terms of the exchange of peoples across the border.

There have been other important developments as well. As you are aware, there has been an upgradation of the existing DGMO-link between the two Director Generals of Military Operations. There is now an optical fibre hotline between them. There is also a hotline between the Pakistani Foreign Secretary and myself. We have agreement on a draft Memorandum of Understanding on narcotics-related issues. This has been agreed upon. It is going to be initialed at a subsequent meeting. We have an agreement on amending the 1975 Shipping Protocol. We are also looking at the possibility of concluding a new maritime, shipping agreement, between the two sides.

We have also signed agreements for the Amritsar-Lahore bus service as also the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service. We are currently in the process of making arrangements for operationalising these two routes. We have also completed whatever arrangements were required for operationalisation of the Khokhrapar-Munabao rail link. We expect that this rail link will be operationalised early next month. Decks have been cleared also for the re-opening of the Consulates in Mumbai and in Karachi respectively.

So, if you look at the various achievements of the Second Round, I think it would be fair to say that the Second Round was certainly very productive, certainly much more successful than the First Round. Based on that very solid foundation we are approaching the Third Round of our Composite Dialogue.

We have given to the Pakistani side a calendar and schedule of meetings for the Third Round stretching up to July and also a schedule for technical level meetings. By and large this particular schedule has been agreed to by both sides, though there will be obviously some adjustment of dates required in specific cases.

We also looked at a number of items that we have been discussing, for example, exchange of prisoners. Satisfaction was expressed that we have made actually a considerable amount of headway on that, and we are looking at ways in which we can improve this further.

As you know, we have handed over to the Pakistani side some amendments to the Consular Agreement. We were happy to receive from the Pakistani side a document setting out how we could perhaps take care of the inadvertent crossings of the LoC or the border and we are very happy to look at that.

We have also looked at some military CBMs, for example, not undertaking any fresh construction within 500 metres of the LoC, confining ourselves to just the improvement of existing structures but not creating new posts, for example, along the LoC.

One of the most important and very encouraging features is that for the last two years the ceasefire has held. Not only has the ceasefire held but I think there has been a scrupulous observance of the ceasefire on both sides. This is a very positive development. So, it was with some degree of optimism that we have now initiated the Third Round of our dialogue.

In this respect we are looking at some fresh ideas. For example, as you may be aware, we had given Pakistan a document relating to reducing the risk of nuclear accidents or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. There have been some responses on some elements by Pakistan. We have agreed that we will continue our discussion on this with a view to reaching an early agreement. We have an understanding that we will conclude an agreement on prevention of incidents at sea in order to ensure the safety of navigation by naval vessels as well as aircraft belonging to the two sides. In this respect Pakistan has offered to give us a document which we can look at.

I have already mentioned to you the possibility of an agreement on the maintenance of tranquility on the LoC, particularly in terms of the undertaking of any new activity along the LoC. We have also proposed modalities for the conduct of monthly flag meetings between local Commanders at selected sectors. Both sides have handed over suggested modalities for such meetings.

Today, as I mentioned, we discussed Jammu and Kashmir. Here we have really, in a sense, carried forward a very substantive dialogue that we have been having on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian viewpoint is that what are regarded as purely confidence-building measures by Pakistan are actually integral to the process of finding a final settlement to the Jammu and Kashmir issue. These are not in different compartments. So, the flexibility that has been shown by both sides in reaching agreement on the arrangements for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service or the agreement that we were able to reach on the opening of certain crossing points on the LoC - this is a sensitive area - the fact that we were able to reach agreement shows that we have been able to develop a degree of mutual trust and confidence. This is a process which we are taking forward. We had today, it would be fair to say, a rather substantive dialogue on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

The vision with which we are working is a vision which has been articulated by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, which is a vision of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan, a departure from a history of conflict and mutual recrimination between the two sides to a future of friendship, cooperation not only for the welfare of the people of India and Pakistan but in the larger context of making this region, the region of South Asia, a region of peace or prosperity or dynamic prosperity, becoming a part and parcel of the larger Asian resurgence that is taking place all around us.

In this respect, obviously there are political limitations on both sides. Prime Minister has said that we are not in a position to redraw boundaries. We are not in a position really to look at territorial adjustments. But short of that, whatever is required in order to give comfort to people on both sides of the LoC, allow a free flow of people, free flow of goods, free flow of ideas and create opportunities for the celebration of the obvious cultural affinity which exists between the people of the two sides.

So, our approach to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is that this is part and parcel of that larger search for peace and friendship between the two countries. It is in that context that we should look at Jammu and Kashmir. That is the spirit with which we have approached the substantive talks that we have had today.

Again, it would be fair to say that there has been some movement. For example, we have agreed that there should be early operationalisation of the Poonch-Rawalakot bus service. We hope that the arrangements would be completed in terms of the infrastructure for enabling us to operationalise this, hopefully by March, or April maybe, this year.

We have also agreed to overcome the damage that has taken place on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus route. We are hopeful that by March we should be able to make operational the bridge, the Aman Setu, which has been damaged during the earthquake. The normal bus service can then resume.

We for our part have also recommended additional bus routes. For example, we have recommended Kargil and Skardu. We hope that this would be something that can be operationalised at an early date. There is already a longstanding request from our side for the Jammu-Sialkot bus route.

You would recall that we have spoken earlier about five meeting points along the Line of Control. During this round it was agreed that we should try and operationalise at least two of these which are easier to operationalise. We will have some technical level discussion about the operationalisation and certain practical modalities like creating of an enclosure on either side of the LoC, of what would be the arrangements for people coming from the Indian side and people coming from the Pakistani side. We will try to make it as convenient, as easy as possible for people on both sides. So, these are important developments. I think this would enable us to carry forward in a positive manner our very substantive engagement on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

During his stay here in Delhi, the Pakistan Foreign Secretary called on the Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. E. Ahamed. That was yesterday. This evening, just before I came for this briefing, he also called on Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Now, I would like to stress that one major theme in discussing India-Pakistan relations and also discussing the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is the issue of terrorism. It was conveyed in a friendly but in a very frank manner that our ability to carry forward the peace process, our ability to take this dialogue process in a positive direction is very much related to the creating of an atmosphere which is free of violence. In that respect we drew attention to the fact that despite the assurances that we have received at the highest level from Pakistan, there is no end to cross-border terrorism.

We believe that the infrastructure of terrorism still continues to exist. We drew attention to the recent and serious incidents, terrorist incidents, which have taken place in India. You are aware of the bomb blasts in Delhi, the incident at Bangalore. These create a sense that all that needs to be done in order to curb cross-border terrorism, to really eliminate this atmosphere of violence, whether it is in Jammu and Kashmir or anywhere else in India, this is something which needs to be seriously addressed. We say this in a constructive spirit, in a spirit of friendship because we really do not wish this to be a question mark which hangs over the peace process. We believe, as Pakistan's leaders themselves have conveyed to us, that terrorism is as much a threat to Pakistan and its security as it is to India. They have committed themselves to working together with India in confronting the phenomenon of terrorism. More needs to be done. We need to work together in order to deal with the issue of terrorism.

So, this message has been given both at my level and Prime Minister also referred to this issue. For us this is a very critical issue. So, we would hope that in the coming weeks and months we will see a perceptible change in this area and that the assurances that have been conveyed to us on a number of occasions in the past, these are implemented with sincerity.

Prime Minister, during his meeting with the Pakistan Foreign Secretary, also referred to his vision of a future, a very bright future, for India-Pakistan relations and his personal commitment to that future - a future of friendship, a future of cooperation. What he said was, ‘I want permanent friendship between India and Pakistan'. So, that is the spirit in which we have had these talks during the last couple of days. This is the spirit in which we will carry forward this process.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Aapne zikr kiya ki Pakistan jinhen mehez CBMs maanta hai, Bharat ka yeh maanana hai ki final solution ke liye kaargar kadam hai. To kya issi se is baat ka sabut hamen nahin milta ki Kashmir ko leke Pakistan ka ravaiya flexibility se koson door hai? Doosra sawal mera yeh hai ki, chahe Balochistan ko leke war or words hua hai donon ke beech mein, ya phir Delhi, Bangalore me jo aatankvaadi hamlen huen hain, in badi ghatanaon ka is third round par kitna pratikool asar pada hai?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Dekhiye, hamne aapko bataya ki jo baat-cheet hui hai, voh ek dostana mahaul mein baat-cheet hui hai. Lekin saath-saath ek bahut frank atmosphere bhi raha hai. Kyonki agar frankly jo samasyayen hain unka ham samadhan nahin dhoondenge, to hamare beech ke jo rishte hain unko kaise ham aage badhayenge? Unko kaise ham aur majboot banayenge? Ye samasyayen hain. Lekin saath-saath kuch aise positive developments bhi hain, jisko dhyan mein rakhna chahiye.

Jo aapne kaha, war or words, jahan tak mujhe yaad hai koi war or words to nahin hua. Unhone apna jo ravaiya tha use spasht kiya. Hamne bhi, hamara jo ravaiya hai use spasht kiya. Jo kal (baat hui) Spokesman sahab ne aapko uski jaankari di thee. Bangalore aur Delhi mein jo haadse hue, abhi-abhi hamne aapko uski bhi jaankari di ki hamne ye mudda uthaya, terrorism ka mudda uthaya. Agar is tarah ke aatankvadi hamle jaari rahen to nishchit hai ki iska asar padega jo vaarta chal rahi hai hamare donon ke beech mein aur jo rishte ham sudharna chahte hain uska zaroor impact hoga. To isko dhyan mein rakhte hue hamne yeh aagrah kiya ki ek seriousness honi chahiye Pakistan ki taraf se bhi jo cross-border terrorism ka jo ek phenomenon hai us par jo kuch kadam uthaye gayen hain, lekin yeh sufficient nahin hain.

QUESTION: Kya Pakistan waqayi flexible hai agar use naye …
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Dekhiye, jo hamara stand hai hamne aapko bataya. Jo CBMs hain voh is process ka ek part hain. Jo ham samadhan dhoondhna chahte hain, jo issue hai Jammu and Kashmir ka us process mein uska bahut mahatva hai. Aur is round mein bhi, jaise hamne aapko jaankaari di, kuch aur kadam uthaye gaye hain. Jaise hamne kaha ek substantive dialogue donon ke beech mein hoga. To ho sakta hai ki vichardhara mein kuchh, shayad, differences hon donon ke beech mein. Lekin agar yeh process voh bhi aage le jaana chahte hain, ham bhi aage le jana chahte hain, to yeh hamare donon ke rishton ke beech mein ek kadam bhi hoga.

QUESTION: Just rephrasing Abhisar's question, when you said that this is India's perception about CBMs being part of the integral process, that clearly indicates that it is not Islamabad's perception. Was that the broad nature of what you are describing as a very frank discussion?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think one should not exaggerate the difference in perception on this issue. As long as there is a willingness on both sides to adopt more confidence-building measures, as long as there is an agreement on both sides that we should allow larger and larger numbers of people to cross the frontiers to meet each other, to interact with each other, these are positive developments from our side. Let me say that there is no hesitation on our part to also react to whatever proposals or whatever ideas Pakistan may bring with regard to Jammu and Kashmir issue. There is a willingness on our part to look at whatever is put forward before us.

QUESTION: Was it reciprocated with the kind of positiveness that you are trying to …
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I have just mentioned to you that we have adopted a number of measures in order to do precisely what we say; (it) is very important to the process, that is, to increase the opportunities for people on both sides of the LoC to interact with each other. We are looking at, for example, operationalising as early as possible a cross-LoC train. We have agreed to open at least one new bus route between the two sides. These may not seem to be very dramatic measures. But these are all measures which really take us closer to the objective of finding a final settlement to the Jammu and Kashmir issue.

QUESTION: Do not you think there is a stalemate?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I would certainly not describe this as a stalemate. I think we are making progress and the outlook is good. I have frankly mentioned to you what could be the possible question marks over this process which is there.

QUESTION: You talked about the Kashmir specific CBMs. Can you elaborate a bit more on that? Did Pakistan give you any proposal, on what General Musharraf has been talking, about self-governance and things like that?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: We have spoken about self-governance. For us self-governance is something which means that there should be representative institutions. There should be institutions which reflect the concerns and aspirations of people. On our side of the LoC we believe that such institutions exist. There is an elected Assembly there. We would hope that there are similar representative entities on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control whether it relates to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, whether it relates to Gilgit or Baltistan. So, we are willing to hear from Pakistan what are the kind of steps that would be taken, for example, with regard to such representative institutions being created on the other side. We can then look at some areas where we can work together, these representative institutions can work together. We have common concerns, for example, relating to environment. Or, we could work together on common issues like tourism promotion. Tthere are opportunities which can open up if we move in that direction. So, we have an open mind. If there are any specific suggestions in this regard, we will look at them. But I have also given to you the parameters within which we can approach this, which is what Prime Minister has already spelt out.

QUESTION: When you spoke about cross-border terrorism, what was the response of Pakistanis? Did they make any pledges to say they would do anything? What was their response to your concerns on cross-border terrorism?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: The response was that Pakistan is deeply committed to the struggle against terrorism, and that Pakistan would not allow any part of the territory under its control for terrorism against India.

QUESTION: Do you believe that?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I have already mentioned to you that while some steps may have been taken, these steps are not enough. So, we would hope that further steps would be taken to control cross-border terrorism.

QUESTION: During the discussions today, did the Pakistani side present any proposal or a non-paper on self-governance issue to India?

QUESTION: Is there any Joint Statement that you are going to issue today?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: It is being worked on. We have just finished the meeting with the Prime Minister. It is being finalized.

QUESTION: Just a clarification. Which is the bus service you have agreed on?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Poonch-Rawalakot.

QUESTION: What are the LoC points?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: As I mentioned, we are going to look at what would be the two most suitable points from the point of view of ease of access. That is something we will be having technical level discussions on, on some of these cross-LoC arrangements. In that technical level meeting we would also look at which are the two most suitable points.

QUESTION: You have mentioned that the Foreign Secretary met the Prime Minister. Did he invite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Yes, the Foreign Secretary did extend an invitation, or rather reiterated President Musharraf's invitation to Prime Minister to visit Pakistan. Prime Minister said that he was very keen to visit Pakistan and an appropriate occasion would be found for this visit. He also said that he would like this visit to be a substantive visit.

QUESTION: Did the Pakistani side raise self-governance and demilitarization in any way? Was there any discussion on Siachen?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I just mentioned to you that the self-governance was raised and what we have discussed.

QUESTION: And on Siachen?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Yes, we have conducted further exchange of views on Siachen. We have to look at the modalities with regard to a possible disengagement of forces in Siachen. But those modalities will need further discussion.

QUESTION: Demilitarisation?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think we have already spelt out for you what our response to the issue of demilitarization is. This is something which is a sovereign decision of the Government of India. The deployment of security forces or their redeployment is something which is linked to our assessment of the security environment in a particular place. What we have said is that as long as there is a perceptible improvement, there is an end to terrorism, to acts of violence, then why just two or three points that are being mentioned, we would like the entire LoC and border between India and Pakistan to have as thin a deployment of forces as is possible. If we establish a relationship of trust and confidence, of peace and friendship, if this border, this LoC becomes a line of friendship, then there is no need for deployment of large forces on either side. That is our perspective.

QUESTION: There are two military CBMs which Pakistan has proposed. One is on declaring South Asia ‘anti-ballistic missile free zone' and the other is non-deployment of strike formations of the army on the borders. What is your view on these two proposals? If these were to be accepted, do you think it would inject a new lease of life in Indo-Pak relations?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think there is already a considerable lease of life in India-Pakistan relations. I do not think we need to look around for other leases of life. As far as this proposal is concerned on ‘anti-ballistic missile free zone', we are only looking at the research and development aspect of anti-ballistic missiles. We are not already creating anti-ballistic missile defences in India. This is something we are looking at as a concept. We are examining it. This is not really the stage to talk about these kinds of concepts. With regard to deployment or redeployment of strike forces, I think I have answered that question. What we would like to really see is that the entire border and Line of Control should become a border of peace and tranquility. That would lead to, almost as a natural corollary, a thinning of forces as well as a redeployment of forces. This is what we would be looking at. We would like to be more ambitious in this regard.

QUESTION: My question pertains to Siachen. They were informed that before demilitarization one needs to demarcate and as such have a border in place on Siachen. From our side, that was the idea given across. Have they come across? How have they reacted to the concept of drawing a line, or making a border or a line of control as far as Siachen is concerned?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: What we have been talking about is a possible redeployment of forces and thereby creating a zone of disengagement. Such a zone of disengagement would have to acknowledge the positions which are currently there and from which there would be redeployment taking place. What we are trying to see is workout the modalities of how this is going to be actually translated into an agreement. The discussions are ongoing. We have made some progress. We are hopeful that we would make further progress as these talks proceed.

QUESTION: Whatever you said in response to the military CBMs and the non-deployment of strike formations, have you conveyed to the Pakistan side as well?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I have just told you what our view is on this whole aspect of creating demilitarized zones or removal of strike forces from the border. Our view is that - (1) there has to be a significant improvement in the security environment; (2) why should we limit ourselves to certain specific areas? We would like there to be a border of peace and tranquility through the entire stretch of India and Pakistan border.

QUESTION: Did Pakistani side specifically bring up President Musharraf's idea of demilitarization that he has talked about? Did that come up?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Yes, reference was made. As I said, reference was made both to the concept of self-governance as well as to the concept of demilitarization. I have given you what our view on these concepts is.

QUESTION: In a recent interview the President of Pakistan talked about three districts in our part of Kashmir, that troops be taken out from these three districts. The implicit assurance perhaps was that this would lead to a substantial decrease in terrorist violence in the Valley. This also leads us to the inference that they have some control over people who are operating inside the Valley. Was this point specifically raised by our side to them and what was their response?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: You are aware that when this interview took place there was a response from our Spokesman to precisely the question that you are referring to. We have never accepted that there is any kind of link between the reduction of violence or terrorism with either demilitarization or any other steps to be taken. Terrorism is terrorism. There is no cause which justifies the killing of innocent men, women and children, full stop. So, there cannot be any kind of bargaining with this. You cannot use terrorism as a bargaining chip. I think the Indian viewpoint is very clearly stated.

QUESTION: When are you meeting next?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: The current round will go on till July. We have already agreed that the various meetings on different subjects on the Composite Dialogue as well as the technical level meetings will take place over a six-month period.

I would also like to mention here, as you are aware, in October we also revived the Joint Commission between the two countries which is at the Foreign Minister level. At the first meeting itself we had agreed that we will set up certain working groups for promoting cooperation between the two sides in different areas. For example, we had agreed that areas like health, areas like education, environment, are areas where we would set up specific working groups. So, it was agreed at our current meeting that these working groups in fact should be set up and they should meet even before the meeting of the Joint Commission. So, maybe we will agree to have this sometime during the middle of this period, have the first meeting of the Joint Working Group which we both agreed could be at the level of Joint Secretaries, and then we could just on the eve of the next meeting of the Joint Commission, we could review their recommendations with a view to adopting some of their recommendations.

QUESTION: Is any specific date set up for Foreign Secretary level talks?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Generally speaking, it will be around July. But we have not really fixed the exact dates.

QUESTION: Jab aapne aatankvaad ka mudda uthaya to kya us samay us mudde ke baat-cheet mein intelligence sharing ki baat bhi hui?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Ji nahin, intelligence sharing ki baat to nahin hui. Lekin shaayad aapko yaad hoga pichhli baar jab donon videsh mantriyon ke beech mein baat-cheet hui thee to ek nirnay liya gaya tha ki jo Federal Investigating Agency hai Pakistan ki aur hamaari CBI ke beech mein baat-cheet ke liye avsar nikaala jaayega. Abhi tak to is tarah ki meeting nahin hui hai. Lekin is baar ham logon ne phir se yaad dilaaya ki nirnay liya gaya tha, aur achcha hoga agar yeh meeting jaldi karaayi jaaye

. QUESTION: We want more trade across the border. But Pakistan Cabinet yesterday took a decision not to ratify the SAFTA. Did you raise this issue with the Pakistani side?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I was not aware that they have taken such a decision. Our view would be, of course, that SAFTA is an important and landmark agreement and all the members of SAARC should ratify it as early as possible.

Thank you very much indeed.

{The text in italics is transliterated from Hindi}


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