Indo-Pakistani Foreign Secretaries meet on Mar 13

Published: Monday, March 12, 2007, 20:24 [IST]
 
Indo-Pak foreign secretaries meet on Mar 13

Islamabad, Mar 12: The two-day India-Pakistan foreign secretary level talks begins here tomorrow with a renewed focus on ways to push forward the peace process for resolution of key issues.

''The two-day talks will focus on regional peace and security,'' Pakistan foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam today told a press briefing here.

The two-day meeting will mark commencement of the fourth round of peace talks, which India and Pakistan had resumed in February 2004.

The foreign secretaries will review the progress achieved during the third round of talks and work out a schedule for meetings of the remaining six groups, which deal with issues of Siachen, Sir Creek, Wuller Barrage, counter-terrorism and narcotics, cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts and trade.

While there has not been any major breakthrough during previous rounds of talks especially on the Kashmir and Siachen issues, the leadership in India and Pakistan noted a progress towards resolution of both.

Ms Aslam said an early resolution of the issue will pave the way for durable peace in the region and bring about greater cooperation in South Asia .

The talks are also likely to focus on a number of important issues and proposals including those on strategic restraint regime as well as inter-related elements including conventional balance, nuclear and missile restraint and conflict resolution.

Ms Aslam expressed the hope that the two foreign secretaries would discuss these ideas.

The two neighbours last month had inked an agreement to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict, which analysts believed was a major step to further build mutual trust.

Ms Aslam replied in affirmative when asked if the two countries would also finalise any agreements during the two-day talks.

''We hope the Foreign Secretaries will be able to finalise a number of agreements that have been under discussion for sometime,'' she said.

These accords include speedy return of inadvertent crossers of the Line of Control (LoC), visa relaxation regime and quarterly flag meeting of sector commanders.

She also hoped the meeting would be able to activate the committee on prisoners, which was established during External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Pakistan last year.

The committee comprises retired judges of the superior judiciary, which will visit jails in the two countries and propose steps to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners who have completed their prison terms.

''This is a high priority issue and Pakistan would like to see it addressed at the earliest,'' Ms Aslam said.

According to the data available with the foreign office, there were 513 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails including 50 fishermen and 463 civilians.

Ms Aslam had recently said here that Pakistani authorities provided consular access to 44 Indian prisoners in Kot Lakhpat jail, Lahore on February 15, 2007. India provided access to only five prisoners against 160 sought by Pakistan, she added.

She made it clear that there were no Indian prisoners of war in Pakistan. She said following a request by New Delhi, some families of missing Indian soldiers have been allowed to visit Pakistan to assuage their concerns.

The foreign secretary level talks come almost a week after the maiden meeting of Indo-Pakistan anti-terror mechanism, which enabled the two countries to share information about different acts of terror which took place on their territories.

UNI


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