Normality Along LoC Precondition For Moving Forward: MEA

Normality Along LoC Precondition For Moving Forward: MEA

31 October 2013
The Hindu
Sandeep Dikshit

New Delhi: The next major meeting slated between India and Pakistan may not be substantive unless normalcy is restored on the Line of Control (LoC), the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said here on Thursday. “That is the common understanding between our two countries and that is what guides our diplomatic interaction with Pakistan. I repeat, the precondition for forward movement in the relationship is an improvement of the situation on the LoC,” stated MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. Mr. Akbaruddin was speaking in the context of an agenda for a meeting between Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid and Pakistan Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaz Aziz on the margins of a biennial event called the ASEM Minister’s Conference on November 11 and 12 in Gurgaon. Taking journalists back to the last substantive bilateral diplomatic discussion between the two Prime Ministers in New York in September, he said the common understanding was that the precondition for a forward movement in the relationship is an improvement of the situation on the LoC. ‘How do we build trust?’ Meanwhile, in an interview to a TV channel, former Pakistan Foreign Secretary and currently High Commissioner in India Salman Bashir said the Pakistan Army had “shown great responsibility and restraint”, and felt that instead of trading charges, the narrative should be how to rebuild trust. Mr. Bashir declined to go into details why the Director Generals of Military Operations of both countries haven’t met despite the two Prime Ministers agreeing on such an interaction to douse tensions along the LoC. He wanted the existing mechanisms such as the one between paramilitary forces and the armies, besides a ministerial mechanism, to also be given a chance. In the interview to CNN-IBN, Mr. Bashir did not accept that the sole responsibility for the violence on the LoC lay on the Pakistani side. He pointed out that when cases of killing of Indian soldiers occurred in January and August, Pakistan had offered investigations. “We wanted to find out what happens. Remember questions about both incidents have come up on your side too. I would say, we need to look ahead,” he replied. While tensions on the border have prevented any substantial progress, a joint Judicial Commission consisting of a retired judged wrapped up their tour of three Indian prisons. They had earlier toured Pakistani prisons and evaluated the condition of Indian prisoners. Pakistan has asked India to release 55 prisoners who have completed their sentences, provide legal aid to those unable to get lawyers, and shift the mentally challenged to specialised institutions. “This is a humanitarian aspect and we are looking forward to a gesture from India in this regard,” said a Pakistani diplomat. India sought to balance the narrative by pointing out that about 90 Indians in Pakistani prisons have completed their sentences. “They should be released because, according to the India-Pakistan bilateral agreement, all prisoners who have completed their sentence should be released within one month,” said Mr. Akbaruddin.