'No discussion with Pakistan on changing status of Kashmir'
15 December 2005
The Daily Times
New Delhi: India has not held any discussions with Pakistan on changing the status of Jammu and Kashmir in any manner, the government told the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) on Thursday.In a written reply, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said that there is no question of India accepting any change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir, which is and will remain an 'integral part' of India.He said that India is committed under the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration to resolve all issues with Pakistan through bilateral discussions, and Jammu and Kashmir is being discussed within the framework of the Indo-Pak composite dialogue.Ahamed said that India's consistent position on the Siachen issue is that the present position of troops has to be authenticated before any redeployment is considered. Two rounds of talks have been held with Pakistan on the Siachen issue and both sides have agreed to continue discussions to resolve it peacefully, he said.The minister said that both countries have agreed to pursue measures to enhance interaction and cooperation across the Line of Control (LoC), including setting up meeting points for divided families, trade, pilgrimages and cultural interaction.Both countries have also agreed to let trucks use the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route for trade.He said that another agreement has been reached to open additional routes, including the Poonch-Rawalakot route for a bus service. These issues will be taken up again once the infrastructure damaged by the October 8 earthquake is restored, Ahamed said.The minister said that India had sought Pakistan's help in seeking the release of the Indian hostage, MR Kutty, in Afghanistan, but Islamabad had not offered any assistance.Overstay Ahamed said that there have been some instances of Pakistani nationals, who had travelled to India on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, overstaying their visit. These people were deported, he said. However, six Pakistani nationals are still stranded in India after the October 8 earthquake.Ahamed told the Rajya Sabha that 10 of 54 Indian nationals who had travelled by the bus to Muzaffarabad are still stuck there, and the government is in touch with Pakistani authorities to facilitate their return.Route to China The minister said that India had proposed to China an alternative route to Kailash-Mansarovar through Demchok in Jammu and Kashmir or Shipki La in Himachal Pradesh, which would be shorter and more convenient.However, China has cited difficulty in opening these routes on grounds that it would involve travel over long distances through difficult terrain on its side, with poor road conditions and lack of proper infrastructure for accommodation and communication, he said.