Natwar, Kasuri Discuss Kashmir In First Meeting
21 June 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Qingdao: Striking a positive note in the first high-level political contact, External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri today discussed Jammu and Kashmir and all other aspects of bilateral ties during talks which were described as 'warm and productive' by both the sides. Singh had a 100-minute working lunch meeting with Kasuri at which officials from both sides were also present followed by a 25-minute one-to-one 'intimate' parleys in the plush Sheraton Qingdao hotel, sources said. The two ministers, who are here to attend the 22-member Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), 'reviewed the progress in all aspects of bilateral relations including Jammu and Kashmir, and implementation of the framework for the dialogue process worked out in February by the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries,' the sources in the delegation said. Singh later told reporters 'the Chemistry was pretty good' while Kasuri said 'we discussed all the issues that are necessary for us to discuss. We had a very positive frame of mind towards all issues.' They agreed to remain in regular touch and provide continuous political guidance to the ongoing process. They also hoped to meet each other on several occasions over the next two months. Kasuri while talking to reporters, said that Kashmir issue should be resolved in a manner that is not 'humiliating' to either side. For a durable peace, people of Jammu and Kashmir have to be involved for a solution that meets their 'expectations', he further said. He also ruled out the possibility of summit level talks 'now' saying it required much more work as both India and Pakistan cannot afford a failure. Asserting that Pakistan will abide by the commitments made in the joint statement of January six last, which calls for dialogue between the two countries, Kasuri told reporters that 'this, I understand is a matter of common sense that if we want durable peace, we have to involve the people of Jammu and Kashmir.' 'This is a challenge to the leadership of Pakistan and India that to resolve the issue in a way that there is no humiliation for Pakistan or India . 'It is a win-win for all. I think this is doable'. Kasuri said 'a sensible answer seems to be that we need to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in order to have durable peace....The sooner we involve the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the peace process, the better it will be for the peace process'. He, however, said that he was not laying down pre-conditions. Kasuri further disclosed that previous Indian Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had arrived at some understandings with 'our Government'. However, he did not go into the details. 'I am encouraged by the meeting with the Indian Foreign Minister today. On an earlier occasion he said to me, and he reiterated it today. He said to me in a telephonic conversation that he would like to take the peace process forward that what the BJP-led Government had done and he reiterated his commitment today'. 'I am very encouraged by that today'. During the 'warm and productive' meeting, Singh and Kasuri also reviewed the expert-level dialogue on nuclear Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) held in New Delhi yesterday. 'They welcomed the agreement worked out at the meeting to establish and upgrade communications, and work for specific CBMs, including through an agreement on advance notification of missile tests,' the sources said. The two Ministers, who had several telephonic conversations since the new Government came to power in New Delhi, positively assessed the progress in the discussions held, including at the meetings between Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers, the narcotics control authorities of the two countries. The two Foreign Ministers said they looked forward to the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries scheduled for June 27-28, and to concrete outcomes from that meeting so as to take forward the present process, the sources said. Apart from meeting Kasuri, Singh had important bilateral meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, who is also the host of the ACD Foreign Ministers' meeting here in the booming coastal east Chinese city. This was also the first meeting between Singh and Li. New Delhi said stepping up relations with Beijing would be high on its agenda.