India and Pakistan today announced additional Confidence Building Measures related to Kashmir, including increasing cross-LoC trading days and expanding travel to include tourism and religious aspects. After the “satisfactory” talks between External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, the two sides also decided to relax permit conditions for travel by people of Jammu and Kashmir to the other side of LoC by having a system of six-month multiple entry.
The two ministers discussed Jammu and Kashmir, counter-terrorism measures, including progress in the Mumbai attacks trial in Pakistan, humanitarian issues, commercial and economic cooperation, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Sir Creek, Siachen, peace and security including CBMs and promotion of friendly exchanges. They also agreed to convene separate meetings of the expert groups on nuclear and conventional CBMs, in Islamabad in September 2011.
“The Ministers held discussions on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to the need for continued discussions, in a purposeful and forward looking manner, with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences,” said a joint statement issued after the talks. Krishna later said, “I must say that I am satisfied at the progress achieved in this round of the resumed dialogue. The outcomes have been as per our expectations. While being fully cognisant of the challenges that lie ahead, I can confidently say that our relations are on the right track.”
On Jammu and Kashmir, Krishna said they will continue discussions with a view to finding a peaceful solution by “narrowing divergences and building convergences”. Expressing satisfaction at the outcome of talks, he said the two sides decided that the Foreign Ministers will meet again in Islamabad in the first half of 2012 to review progress in the dialogue process. “We are listening carefully to each other and giving serious consideration to the ideas and proposals from both sides that are on the table. I am also confident about our future course of our relations, which has to be normalised for peace progress and prosperity of our two countries and the region,” the External Affairs Minister said.
“This is indeed a new era of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and it is our desire and I believe after having spoken to you (Krishna), that it is the desire and commitment of both the governments to make it an uninterrupted and an uninterpretable process,” Khar said. “We have expressed our satisfaction on holding of subject specific meetings during the last five months.
We have agreed that the process should continue and in fact there is no alternative to dialogue and constructive engagement,” she said in a brief press stake-out after the meeting. She said, “a new generation of India and Pakistan will see a relationship which is going to be much different than the one we experienced in the last few decades.” Khar, the youngest and first woman Foreign Minister of Pakistan, said they should make every effort possible to narrowing down divergences and building convergences. “It is important that a responsible state we take ownership of our own affairs. In the recent months we have seen an intensification of contacts at different levels between both the countries,” she said.
The joint statement said the ministers affirmed the importance of carrying forward the dialogue process with a “view to resolving peacefully all outstanding issues through constructive and result oriented engagement, and to establish friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations between Pakistan and India.” They also underlined the need for sustained effort by both countries to build a relationship of trust and mutually beneficial cooperation in conformity with the determination of the people of both countries to see “an end to terrorism and violence and to realise their aspirations for peace and development.”
Krishna and Khar also agreed that terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security and reiterated the firm and undiluted commitment of the two countries to fight and eliminate this scourge in all its forms and manifestations. “Both sides agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism including among relevant departments as well as agencies to bring those responsible for terror crimes to justice,” the statement said. They noted with satisfaction the fact that “since the resumption of dialogue earlier this year, the process of release of prisoners and fishermen from both sides has continued.” On CBMs, the statement said the Working Group will review the trading list with a view to further specifying permissible items to facilitate intra-Jammu and Kashmir Cross-LoC trade. “The number of trading days stand enhanced from 2 to 4 days per week. Truck movements shall take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, both on Srinagar- Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes,” the statement said.
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