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27/12/2004-Visit of Foreign Secretary to Islamabad 27-28 December 2004

Press Conference by Foreign Secretary Shri Shyam Saran, Islamabad

Opening remarks: I would like to begin by expressing deep appreciation for the invitation extended to me to visit Pakistan, and for the opportunity to visit Peshawar and hopefully also Lahore. We had a round of discussions today morning. I would like to give you all a brief idea of this meeting. We carried out a comprehensive review of the dialogue that has taken place so far. A number of issues were discussed. You are aware of the meetings such as those on Sir Creek, Anti-narcotics, and Expert-level Meetings on Conventional and Nuclear CBMs. We agreed on the Joint Survey of pillars on the horizontal segment in Sir Creek, and had a useful discussion on anti-narcotics. We had covered considerable ground in these talks and both sides expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far. We had agreed that during the Foreign Secretary-level talks we would try to further narrow the differences that exist.

Press Conference by Foreign Secretary Shri Shyam Saran, Islamabad

Opening remarks: I would like to begin by expressing deep appreciation for the invitation extended to me to visit Pakistan, and for the opportunity to visit Peshawar and hopefully also Lahore. We had a round of discussions today morning. I would like to give you all a brief idea of this meeting. We carried out a comprehensive review of the dialogue that has taken place so far. A number of issues were discussed. You are aware of the meetings such as those on Sir Creek, Anti-narcotics, and Expert-level Meetings on Conventional and Nuclear CBMs. We agreed on the Joint Survey of pillars on the horizontal segment in Sir Creek, and had a useful discussion on anti-narcotics. We had covered considerable ground in these talks and both sides expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far. We had agreed that during the Foreign Secretary-level talks we would try to further narrow the differences that exist.

A number of very important visits have taken place in recent months. CM of (Pak) Punjab visited India on the invitation of the Chief Minister Mr. Amarinder Singh. Recently the Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan had an extremely successful visit to India. The traffic across the border has increased at a rapid pace and we want to keep up the momentum. There is a visible improvement in relations, and there is less tension. We recently celebrated the first anniversary of the ceasefire which is holding. We have taken forward a number of CBMs.

My assessment of the talks this morning is that both sides want to continue the process. There is a commitment to try and ameliorate some of the areas where there are humanitarian concerns. One such case is that of the fishermen and civilian prisoners. Both countries have a responsibility to ameliorate the sufferings of these people. One other area is that of children who inadvertently cross the borders. There was a matching response from Pak side on measures to address these humanitarian issues; this will enable us to move forward.

We have also offered some more CBMs like easier travel of senior citizens over 65 years of age and children below 12 years. They will not have to seek visas at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to travel to India. This would also apply to groups whose antecedents are pre-vetted. This will help them cross the border in an easier manner. Formalities and procedures for entry into India can be completed at the Wagah Attari check-post itself. The High Commission will forward information to New Delhi on the groups, and these groups can obtain permission to enter on arrival.

We have also conveyed that Student Visas can be given on a case by case basis to those children who get admission in India for studies. We have also discussed inclusion of more religious places and list of shrines to be visited.

Both sides have agreed to carry forward the next round of talks, which will go on till June-July next year. The calendar of meetings is under preparation. This reflects the commitment for dialogue on both sides. We have all along said that we have to be engaged in a sustained dialogue. After completion of the expert-level talks, the Foreign Secretaries will meet again to review the progress achieved. We had a number of meetings in the recent past, including one between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Singh. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz recently visited India. We will have the SAARC Summit when both Prime Ministers will also have an opportunity to meet. Our External Affairs Minister (EAM) will visit Pakistan in the next few months. These (interactions) will give us opportunities to see how our relations can be taken forward.

We will also discuss Jammu & Kashmir tomorrow. We are ready to engage in a serious dialogue on Jammu & Kashmir. There is a misperception in Pakistan that India is trying to take the CBMs forward and marginalise discussions on Jammu & Kashmir. I will say with complete honesty that this is not the case. We believe in having a serious dialogue on Jammu & Kashmir along with moving forward on the CBMs which would give a chance for finding solutions to the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. This is part of a process. Far from deflecting progress on J & K, movement on CBMs will help us to find solutions. It is our sincere view that building confidence through CBMs is integral to resloving the issue of J & K.

We fully agree with President Musharraf when he said perhaps there is a trust deficit, and that needs to be addressed. We have to deal with public opinion. We, both in Pakistan and India, have to carry our people with us. Any understanding on J & K must be supported by our people, on both sides. It makes eminent sense to expand the peace constituency on both sides. At the end of the day, we are talking of people. There should be no doubt in the minds of the people in Pakistan that we are serious about finding solutions to the Jammu & Kashmir issue. The feeling that confidence building is opposed to, or detracts from, finding a solution to Jammu & Kashmir is misplaced. On the contrary, it will help.

The Joint Press statement of January 6 contains a very solemn assurance that no territory under control of Pakistan will be used to sponsor cross border terrorism. This is a fundamental assurance for us, and critical for taking the dialogue process forward. This solemn assurance is important and should be implemented in letter and spirit. I hope it will be implemented.

Qn: What will be the basis of your discussions on Jammu & Kashmir? Is it that territories on both sides of the line of control are considered disputed? (Javaid Rana, The Nation)

FS: Our legal position is that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. We are prepared to look at the issue that has arisen with regard to Jammu & Kashmir by focussing on the people. Certain lines are drawn on the maps. There is nothing much we can do in the near future to change these lines. What we can do is to ameliorate the sufferings of people on both sides. We should be focussing on the people. That is our effort. If we take this process of CBMs including in Jammu & Kashmir forward to make it possible for the people to interact, perhaps options which are not available to us today may reveal themselves. Enhanced interaction among Kashmiris will throw up solutions in the times to come. We are committed to a peace process. What we are engaged in is to have peace with Pakistan.

Qn: - Is tomorrow’s discussion going to be about new proposals on Jammu & Kashmir ? (Mr. Nayar, UNI)

FS: If you are looking for a solution as it exists, this is not the case. This is a very sensitive and sentimental issue for both sides. So a solution is not possible in the next few days. We need to be engaged in a process. Our Pakistani interlocutors agree on the need to engage in a process, and not in an event so that the consequences of the lines drawn on the map can be addressed.

Qn: Are you proposing to include people of Jammu & Kashmir in the dialogue? (Khalid Aziem, Editor, Daily ‘Ummat’ Karachi)

FS: The people of India are involved in the dialogue, and thereby the people of Jammu & Kashmir, being a part of India. How do we then include the people? The only way we know how to do this, as a democracy, is through elections. So we will deal with the elected Government of Jammu & Kashmir. We are also willing to involve other people who want peace.

Qn: Have we received any note on the seven regions proposal from President Musharraf? If a note is received what will be your reaction? (Mohan Das, UNI)

FS: No. I cannot comment on any hypothetical situation.

Qn: Everyone knows that Jammu & Kashmir issue cannot be solved quickly. But it is a positive sign that our Indian friends are talking about solutions after fifty years. Do you have any timeframe in mind? (Mazar Iqbal, Daily ‘Islam’)

FS: I would like to correct the historical part (of your question). It is wrong to say that Jammu & Kashmir was not discussed in the past. We talked about ways for a solution even before the Shimla Agreement. I can assure you that we are ready to discuss it with all seriousness. Then on the question of timeframe. To us, sooner the better. But this is a process, and I do not think we can put or impose artificial timelines on a process.

Qn: Do you think that Pakistan will hold to its solemn assurance on cross- border terrorism? And do you think India would agree to a third party facilitation or mediation? (Sherry Sardar, Reuters, Islamabad)

FS: On implementation of the solemn pledge made (by Pakistan) on cross- border terrorism, much more needs to be done. The phenomenon of cross- border terrorism has not ceased. On our agreeing to a third party facilitation, I do not think so. Both sides are involved in a sustained, substantive dialogue process. Both sides are committed to an early solution. I do not see any need for any third party.

Qn: Pakistan offered assistance to India following the (disaster caused by the) Tsunami tidal waves. Is it the first time such assistance has been offered? On proposal for visas to Pakistani students, how will this be implemented. What has been the response of Pakistan on the visa proposals? (Sadaqat Khan, Associated Press, Islamabad)

FS: In the meeting today morning, and also during my call on the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, I expressed our appreciation for the sympathy and support from Pakistan on the tragedy which has not only affected India, but also several countries in the region. I will convey this to our authorities. We will see if there are areas of support needed from Pakistan.

On grant of student visas, we will verify these on a case-by-case basis, and grant visas for the duration of the courses. On the question of Pakistan’s response, we do not ask for reciprocation. If they do respond, we would be happy. Let me also mention here that the Government of India has offered medical assistance to two groups of Pakistani children numbering about forty. We have announced that we are ready to assist 20 more such children.

 

Press Conference by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran, Islamabad

28 December 2004

Opening remarks: I have not had such an intensive interaction with the press anywhere else twice in a matter of 24 hours. I believe this will promote understanding between the two countries.

I have had a friendly and cordial meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and both sides moved to the second round of discussions today in which the focus was Jammu & Kashmir. We had a fairly full discussion on what is an important agenda item. Both sides agreed on a Joint Statement which deals with several important issues. You will have copies of this shortly.

Firstly, for us in India, and I believe for Pakistan as well, it was extremely important to reflect the importance of the solemn assurance of President Musharraf to Vajpayee, contained in the Joint Statement of January 6, 2004, where President Musharraf reassured that he will not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to support terrorism in any manner. We have had some discussion on that and it is reflected in the Joint Statement. Terrorism is a threat to India and to Pakistan and both countries have a shared objective in confronting it. We hope in the coming days we will join hands in dealing with it.

I have had discussions on the issue of peace and security, and we reviewed progress from meetings in the recent past. We have tried to narrow down differences and are to trying to come to some agreement on the areas of convergence. I am happy to inform that we have made some progress. On contacts between the DGMOs, we agreed on regular contacts at designated places on the LoC and the International Boundary. This will be in the shape of more frequent meetings between the local commanders on both sides. There is now a willingness to look at various points (along LoC and the IB) for contacts among army personnel on both sides.

We have taken a decision on Pre-Notification on Missile Tests and I am happy to inform you that we have worked to narrow down our differences. The gap that existed earlier has been narrowed down. I wish to report to you on another important agreement. As I mentioned yesterday, the focus in our discussions has been on humanitarian aspects of our relations, despite differences in our respective stated positions. We tried to see whether we could minimize negative consequences of the lines drawn on the maps, and if we could do something to minimize the suffering of the people. In this context we looked at easier ways of issuing visas to school children and to senior citizens, and offered assistance in medical treatment of (Pak) children in India. In the same spirit we could agree on the issue of treatment of civilian prisoners. We agreed that immediate notification will be provided to the respective High Commissions on detention/arrest of nationals from either side. Another positive aspect of the agreement reached is on provision of consular access within three months of apprehension on either side, and facilitation of repatriation in respect of those cases where sentences are completed and nationalities verified. We also discussed immediate repatriation, when sentenced, of inadvertent crossers – children in particular. This is very important in terms of confidence building, and is a very positive development.

In keeping with the joint commitment to take the dialogue process forward, we agreed on meetings between January and July/August, 2005. At the end of these meetings in July/August, Foreign Secretaries will meet to review the progress made.

I will now turn to some of the highlights from my meetings this morning. We have had a full discussion on J&K. I put forward the Indian position. Firstly, there should be no apprehension that Jammu & Kashmir will be marginalized in our discussions, or put on the backburner. Secondly, there is a recognition obviously that it is a complex issue, and we need time to deal with it. But in the meantime, it is important to make it a humanitarian issue and deal with the problems of the people on both sides. Indian side put forward a proposal for meetings of families/reunion of families in Kashmir at five places, on designated days and periods of time, under joint security arrangements. The places are Manthar, Poonch, Suchetgarh, Uri, and Tangdhar along the Neelam Valley. Our Pakistani friends have told us they are willing to consider the proposal for allowing family reunions under joint arrangements.

Effort has been to try and find some areas of convergence despite the fact of difference on certain key elements of the J&K issue. I go back to India with a renewed sense of optimism. I believe there are a number of areas where we can work together.

There were a number of salient points in my meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan. I conveyed the warm greetings and personal regards of our Prime Minister to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. I conveyed to him that our PM also looks forward to meeting PM Shaukat Aziz in the Dhaka SAARC Summit.

We talked about the importance of trade and economic linkages between India and Pakistan. PM Aziz very kindly agreed to the establishment of banking relations between our two countries, and to consider applications from our banks to set up offices in Pakistan.

On Pak apprehensions on trade imbalance, and on there being no level playing field, we agreed to address these apprehensions in the ambit of the Joint Study Group that has been established. We also focused on infrastructure for trade between the two countries, and the comparative advantage that Pakistan possesses in its relative proximity to India. Pakistan must be able to take advantage of India. For this, transport linkages such as highways and railway development will provide for a much easier flow of goods and people through our borders. We would also need to look at a number of other linkages in banking, telecommunication and in improving cross-border infrastructure to leverage cross-border trade. We will also look at non-tariff barriers.

I had a very positive meeting with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. He has an open mind to promote trade and economic relations, and this is fully reciprocated from our side.

PM Shaukat Aziz reminded us of the invitation extended to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan and I will take this back to New Delhi.

Qn. On three points of flexibility that India brought to the table in Islamabad (Qudssia Akhlaque, Dawn)

FS: Why only three? On every point there is flexibility (from our side). I will not cherry-pick on three points. We need to be pragmatic, and practical, and expand the range of our cooperation. Despite differences we have agreed to work together. There is an agreement, for example, on the issue of civilian prisoners…

Qn. What about flexibility…with reference only to J&K (Qudssia Akhlaque, Dawn)?

FS: We have agreed to promote cross-LOC contacts, and promote cross-International Border contacts. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we will be determining possible meeting places for allowing reunion of Kashmiri families along the LOC. On the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, we will adopt a practical and flexible approach.

Qn. Will India be flexible on the issue of documentation for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus link (Saurabh Shukla, India Today)?

FS: The matter is under discussion. Both sides look at an early operation of the bus service, and both sides will be practical and flexible.

Qn. The September agreement in New York was to explore all possible options on the J&K issue. What are these options for a resolution of the Kashmir issue (Nabiha Ahmed, PTV)?

FS: We are involved in a process, and the process is something that will move step-by-step. We will have to work to make the lives of the people better on both sides. Once Kashmiris on both sides of the border have an opportunity of meeting each other, it will help the process of finding a solution. We have not received any options as such (from Pakistan) in terms of a final settlement. But there is a readiness to take the process forward. As I pointed out yesterday, I informed all my interlocutors that building on the affinity between the people of two countries should not be seen as a distraction. The goal is to make the lives of people on both sides of the border easier. The goal is to find a final settlement (to the J&K issue), and in moving forward along that goal to be realistic and practical, and be involved in a process.

Qn.… What is the issue of Jammu and Kashmir ? (Imtiaz Gul, Voice of Germany)
And
Qn…. (simultaneously)…India has used opportunity of ceasefire to build a fence on the loC to change the status ? (Mohd. Saaleh Zaafir Jang)

JS(XP): Mr. Zaafir, we all know that you don’t need permission to ask questions…

FS: The reason for the fence is simple. It is the responsibility of the State to provide peace and security to its people. We are discharging that. All of us here know the background of differences between India and Pakistan. If you do not see what the issue is, then we could all go back home. Differences of opinion are there. But instead of reiterating our positions, we should be seeing points of convergence on which to build. We believe we have embarked on that path, and are making progress. I believe after the present meetings in Islamabad, I am going back with a renewed sense of optimism.

Qn. Are you convinced Pakistan is taking steps to completely stop cross border terrorism (Mohan Das, UNI)?

FS: On this I will refer you to the Joint Statement issued. We believe that more needs to be done in this regard (by Pakistan). Having said that, I must add we have had a full and substantive discussion on a very broad range of issues, not just J&K. I have mentioned the issues already. The swiftness with which we have reached an understanding on civilian prisoners is one indicator.

 

Joint Statement, Meeting between Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan

28 December 2004

The Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India met in Islamabad on 27 – 28 December 2004 to review overall progress, commence the next round of the Composite Dialogue and discuss the issues of Peace and Security including CBMs, and Jammu and Kashmir. Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Mr. Riaz H. Khokhar, led the Pakistan delegation while the Indian delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran. The talks were held in a frank, cordial and constructive atmosphere.

2. Recalling the solemn and categoric reassurance contained in the Joint Press Statement of 6th January, they expressed their determination to carry the process forward.

3. On the issue of Peace and Security including CBMs, the two Foreign Secretaries, inter-alia reviewed the progress made during the meetings of Experts on Nuclear and Conventional CBMs. Building upon the existing contacts between DG MOs, they agreed to promote regular contacts at local level at designated places and explore further CBMs along the international boundary and the LoC. They discussed and narrowed further their differences on the draft agreement on pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles, and agreed to work towards its early finalization.

4. Both sides discussed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to carry forward the process in the light of the Joint Statement issued after the meeting between President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh in New York on September 24, 2004.

5. The meetings on the other six subjects under the Composite Dialogue, i.e. Siachen, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Sir Creek, Terrorism & Drug Trafficking, Economic & Commercial Cooperation and Promotion of Friendly Exchanges in Various Fields would be held on mutually agreed dates between April and June 2005.

6. The two sides also agreed that technical meetings including the Joint Study Group on Trade matters headed by the Commerce Secretaries, Indian Coast Guards and Pakistan Maritime Agency, Pakistan Rangers and Border Security Force of India, Expert level dialogue on Nuclear and Conventional CBMs, technical level meeting on bus service between/through Amritsar and Lahore, meeting between the Narcotics Control Authorities would be held between January and June 2005.

7. They also discussed issues related to apprehended fishermen, civilian prisoners and missing defence personnel. It was inter-alia agreed that:

(i) Immediate notification would be provided to the respective High Commissions through the Foreign Ministries of arrested Pakistani/Indian nationals;
(ii) Consular access would be provided within three months of apprehension;
(iii) Repatriation would be done immediately after completion of sentence and nationality verification;
(iv) A mechanism would be introduced for early repatriation, without sentencing of inadvertent crossers;
(v) A similar mechanism would be established for early release, without sentencing of those under 16 apprehended by either side.

8. The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries would meet in New Delhi to review the overall progress in the Composite Dialogue in July-August 2005.

9. The Foreign Ministers and the Prime Ministers of the two countries would meet during the SAARC Summit in Dhaka in January 2005. The External Affairs Minister of India Mr. K. Natwar Singh would visit Islamabad in February 2005 for bilateral discussions.

10. The Foreign Secretary of India called on Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz and Foreign Minister Khurshid M. Kasuri of Pakistan during the course of his visit to Islamabad.

Islamabad
28 December 2004

 

 

 

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