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India, Pakistan to ease cross-Kashmir trade, travel

Saturday July 23, 2011 10:24:09 PM, IANS

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Cross-Kashmir CBMs ahead of India, Pakistan talks

New Delhi/Thimphu: Ahead of the ministerial level meeting with Pakistan, India Saturday talked tough on terror but hoped to unveil a slew of confidence-building measures that will lower barriers to expanded trade and travel across the divided halves of Kashmir.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar touches down here Tuesday for talks with her External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna the following day. She has also sought a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh.

India is ready to discuss "all issues with an open mind", and will push for speedy justice for victims of 26/11 Mumbai terror, government sources said in New Delhi.

"They will review the progress in the dialogue process and their aim is to chart the way forward," a source said when asked about the meeting between the two foreign ministers Wednesday.

The source underlined the need for "an atmosphere free from terror" for meaningful talks, but at the same time sought to expand the scope of dialogue by including new areas of cooperation like agriculture, health and telecommunications.

Justice for 26/11 victims will be given a "lot of prominence and emphasis," in the talks, but at the same time people-centric initiatives will be given an equal importance, officials said.

"We desire peaceful relations with Pakistan and hope for a stable Pakistan that acts a bulwark against extremism and terrorism," said the source.

"A number of CBMs are under consideration which will enhance people-to-people contacts. We will announce some CBMs."

The two sides are expected to announce an increase in the frequency of cross-Kashmir bus links between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and Poonch and Rawalakot. The two sides will also increase the number of trading days across the Line of Control (LOC) and open more trading points.

"We are discussing increasing the frequency of the trading days, improving the bus communication, resolving issues relating to entry permits used by traders. The idea is to make LoC trade easier," the source said.

Seeking to downplay a likely meeting with Pakistan's foreign minister with Hurriyat leaders, the source said India hoped that the Pakistani side will be able to "tell them to talk the language of peace, sanity and reconciliation".

"Goading the Hurriyat to espouse agendas will not help," the source said.

At the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting in Thimphu, India made it clear without naming Pakistan that "no country can escape its responsibility by blaming non-state actors for terrorist activities emanating from its soil".

"As long as the territory of a country is used by non-state actors to prepare for terror attacks, that country owes a legal and moral responsibility to its neighbours and to the world to suppress those non-state actors and bring them to justice," Home Minister P.Chidambaram said at the 4th meeting of the SAARC interior/home ministers.

"Sometimes, I think that the distinction between state actors and non-state actors is misplaced and intended to misdirect our efforts to deal with terrorist groups at the very source -- the recruitment centres, the training camps and their safe havens and sanctuaries," he said.

Describing terrorism as the biggest existentialist challenge in South Asia, Chidambaram called for enhanced cooperation among countries in the region to fight the menace.

Meanwhile, asked about the arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai, a suspected Pakistani ISI agent involved in illegal lobbying in the US, the government source in New Delhi said: "The link between the agencies of the Pakistani state and militants and separatists need to be broken."

India hoped that the arrest of Fai will lead the exposure of similar separatists linked to Pakistan who are operating from London and Brussels, but stressed that the Fai row will not affect the forthcoming talks.








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