January 2006 News

India and Pakistan agree on second Kashmir bus

18 January 2006
The Daily Times

Islamabad: India and Pakistan have agreed to start a second bus service linking divided Kashmir. A joint statement after two days of talks between the foreign secretaries of both countries said on Wednesday that both sides were committed to starting a bus service between Poonch and Rawalakot and a truck service on the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar route for trade as soon as infrastructure damaged by the October earthquake was restored. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said arrangements for the Poonch-Rawalakot route could be finalised by March-April. He said India’s proposal for Jammu-Sialkot and Kargil- Skardu bus routes were pending. Otherwise, the main thrust of the talks was on terrorism, with India saying Pakistan must do more to stop terrorism, and Pakistan warning that New Delhi further commenting on the situation in Balochistan would have a negative impact on the peace process. “We will oppose anything smelling of the Monroe Doctrine or a declaration of hegemony in this region,” said Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khan. India said it considers confidence-building measures integral to the process to find a final settlement of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. “They are not in difference compartments. They are part of the substantive dialogue process,” said Saran. He said India had political limitations in how far it could go on Kashmir. “We are not in a position to redraw boundaries,” he said. Khan told reporters at the Pakistani High Commission that any LoC-based solution was unacceptable to Pakistan. Pakistan did not table self-rule or demilitarisation proposals at the two-day meeting. “There are other channels and high-level contacts to promote such ideas,” Khan said. Khan said demilitarisation would improve the comfort level and confidence of Kashmiris. Saran said “self-rule” already existed in “our part of Kashmir” in the form of a state legislature and India hoped this happened in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit as well “so that both legislatures can interact on issues like environment and tourism”. Saran said India conveyed in a “friendly and frank manner” that carrying the peace process forward was linked to creating an atmosphere free of violence. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Pakistani foreign minister on Wednesday evening that India and Pakistan should tackle terrorism together. India suggested identifying two of the five crossing points opened across the LoC for creating ‘enclosures’ where people of both sides could meet. AFP adds: Both sides for the first time discussed the possible redeployment of troops in Kashmir, officials said. Saran said the possibility of creating a “disengagement zone” in Kashmir had been broached. “Such a zone would have to acknowledge the positions which are currently there, and from where there would be redeployment taking place,” he told the Press Trust of India.

 

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