India not ready for joint management of J&K
11 January 2007
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: India is not ready to agree to joint management of Jammu and Kashmir as proposed by Pakistan but is open to ideas like setting up of joint consultative mechanism on various issues including tourism and health. This will be conveyed to Pakistan when External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee travels there on Saturday on a two-day visit during which he will also seek to know what the Musharraf Government has done to address India’s concerns over continuing cross-border terrorism. The two sides will also discuss Siachen amid 'indications' from Pakistan about its readiness to authenticate present troop positions at the glacier, a pre-condition set by India for demilitarisation of the region. Efforts to resolve the Sir Creek issue have witnessed 'considerable progress' and the process of joint survey of the disputed marshy land and waters off the Gujarat coast is expected to be completed by March. Mukherjee is travelling to Pakistan primarily to extend an invitation to President Pervez Musharraf for the 14th SAARC Summit to be held here in April. During his stay there, he will hold talks with his counterpart Khurshid M Kasuri on all bilateral issues. On Jammu and Kashmir, India is ready to discuss anything short of secession. The proposal of Joint Management of the state, floated by Musharraf, is not acceptable to India. It is, however, open to ideas like setting up of a joint consultative mechanism on issues including tourism, health and ecology, sources here said. During the talks, the Indian side will, however, ask Pakistan to explain and elaborate on its proposals like joint management and joint control of J&K. New Delhi does not agree with the Pakistani concept of self-governance in Jammu and Kashmir as it asserts that the State already enjoys it. But it favours softening of Line of Control (LoC), particularly to allow trade relations. India believes that Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are integral to the J&K issue. Terrorism is expected to be the dominant theme of discussions as New Delhi feels that the scourge emanating from across the border is continuing. After giving evidence of Pakistani links to terrorism here along with pin-pointed location of the terror infrastructure last November, India will seek to know what Islamabad has done to dismantle the set-up and end infiltration. India will convey its expectations from Pakistan on the issue and will assess the situation on the ground. Sources said there is a lull in terrorism but it was because of weather. The joint anti-terror mechanism set up in November is also expected to meet here after Mukherjee’s visit. New Delhi underlines that the two countries have common interest in fighting extremism in the region which is affecting even western Pakistan and Afghanistan and will discuss this aspect with Islamabad. India feels worried over extremism in Waziristan and Balochistan as these have links to militancy here. But a major change will be needed in Pakistan’s mindset to make it fight extremism. The two sides are also discussing liberalisation of visa regime and in this regard New Delhi received recently a response from Islamabad to its year-old proposal to ease the system. While appreciating Islamabad’s response, New Delhi does not find the Pakistani draft to be envisaging a system more liberal than that being already practiced by India. At the talks between Mukherjee and Kasuri, the two countries will also discuss the issue of SAFTA implementation, which has been another area of dispute. Pakistan has been insisting on engaging in trade with India only on the basis of ‘positive list’, prompting New Delhi to say that it violates the spirit of the regional trading agreement, which came into force in July last year. Progress has been witnessed on the issue lately with Pakistan expanding the positive list of trading to 1070. New Delhi feels that non-implementation of SAFTA by Pakistan does not hurt India’s economy but spoils Pakistan’s 'credibility' besides not being good for SAARC process. The issue dominated the agenda at the SAARC Foreign Ministers’ conference in Dhaka in August last year and was referred to SAARC Ministerial Council Comprising Commerce Ministers of the seven-nation organisation. The Commerce Ministers are to meet before the summit to discuss the issue. India is also keen to see reopening of consulates by the two countries in Karachi and Mumbai. An agreement in this regard has made no headway as Pakistan has failed to find a place to locate its mission in Mumbai. The Ministry of External Affairs also came for help and identified eight properties but none could be finalised. In the absence of a consulate in Karachi, India has proposed that the visa seekers there could apply through courier or visa camps could be held outside Islamabad. This is yet to be accepted. On the proposed Iran-Pakistan- India (IPI) gas pipeline, India says while there is a political commitment from it, the feasibility of the project will be determined by the price of the fuel and security aspect. During the talks, India will raise the issue early release of prisoners and fishermen.