Joint Media Interaction during the visit of Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to India
with his Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee
Pranab Mukherjee: I would like to once again welcome His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and his distinguished delegation who are visiting India for the 5th meeting of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission, which concluded a little while ago. As you know, this meeting took place two days after a gruesome tragedy that struck the Delhi-Attari express that links up with the Samjhauta Express. We strongly condemn the blasts in which at least 68 innocent lives were lost and several other persons were injured. We convey our heartfelt condolences to the victims. All efforts are being made to identify the dead bodies and to give succour to the bereaved families. Government of India will make every effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous act.
The holding of the Joint Commission meeting as scheduled is a reaffirmation of the commitment of both India and Pakistan to the dialogue process. At its 4th meeting in October 2005, the Joint Commission had constituted 8 technical level Joint Working Groups on Agriculture, Health, Science & Technology, Information, Environment, Tourism, Education, and I.T. & Telecommunications. Six of these Working Groups had met in 2006 and the remaining two, on Education and Information, met yesterday. We complimented the leaders of the Working Groups from both sides for their commendable effort in identifying areas of cooperation. Their reports were presented at the Joint Commission and discussed. A summary of the deliberations of the Working Groups is being circulated separately. I am confident that the Joint Commission's deliberations will lead to greater bilateral cooperation and provide a structural basis for improving the relations between our two countries.
In addition to discussions under the Joint Commission, you have also witnessed the signing this morning of the Agreement between India and Pakistan on "Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons".
In my meeting with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, we also reviewed the progress in our bilateral relations since we last met in Islamabad on 13 January 2007. We are happy to note that the joint survey of Sir Creek is progressing smoothly and that the Thar Express resumed service on 17 February. We hope that the meeting of the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism in Islamabad on 6 March will be meaningful and the fourth round of the Composite Dialogue to be launched by the Foreign Secretaries in Islamabad on 13-14 March will promote bilateral relations further.
Today, I have also handed over to my distinguished guest, the Pakistan Foreign Minister, a list of the relatives of Indian Prisoners of War who would like to visit Pakistan in April 2007. You would recall that Pakistan had agreed to receive them during my visit to Islamabad last month.
May I now invite my distinguished guest, Foreign Minister Kasuri, to make a brief statement after which we can take a few questions. Thank you. Ladies and Gentlemen.
Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri: Thank you, Excellency.
First of all, I would like to thank my colleague His Excellency the External Affairs Minister and also the Government of India for the hospitality that my delegation and I have received since our arrival here. Unfortunately, our arrival and the meeting of the Joint Commission were preceded by that horrendous tragedy that struck passengers who were traveling from Delhi to Attari on their way to Lahore. There are no words strong enough to condemn this act of heinous crime. Of course, it has underlined the need for cooperation further more. I have no doubt that the meeting of the anti-terror mechanism which is supposed to meet in Islamabad will take cognizance of this. The Prime Minister of India in a telephone call to the Prime Minister of Pakistan had said that he would share the results of the investigations and I am sure that when the anti-terror mechanism meets in Islamabad, this will be a very high item on their agenda. Our hearts go out to those who suffered and the relatives of those who died.
I would like to take this opportunity to place on record our appreciation for the services of the doctors. I personally visited the hospital yesterday and the doctors were really taking very good care of the patients. Unfortunately, one of those people died yesterday and another one is in a very critical condition. I would simply say that the Government of Pakistan has made all the arrangements for the relatives to travel here and the Government of India has promised and is extending support to those who would like to come here to either identify the dead bodies or to meet with those who are injured. The Government of Pakistan has also arranged for those people who have been grievously injured -- actually some people have 40 per cent burns on their bodies -- and we made arrangements for those who can travel to be taken to Pakistan.
As you know, the purpose of this meeting was to attend this Joint Commission -- this is the fifth one. This is another sign of increasing cooperation between Pakistan and India. We examined the possibilities of cooperation in the areas of Education, Information, IT and Telecom, Health, Agriculture, Tourism, Science and Technology, and Environment. I am happy to say that the co-chairs of these various groups were able to identify areas of cooperation. I suggested that for the next meeting of the Commission, these meetings should have taken place much earlier so that when my colleague and I meet we can witness greater progress. Considering the devotion of the co-chairs and other members, I feel that that will be the case.
I did utilize this opportunity to discuss other matters with my distinguished colleague. You remember that when we were in Islamabad we had agreed to various measures. One of those was regarding the conditions of prisoners. We tried to rise above our partisan considerations today purely from the point of view of human right because it really is very important that we address the issue of human rights. Last time, when His Excellency Mr. Pranab Mukherjee was in Islamabad I had suggested, in fact he had agreed, that we would nominate retired judges of supreme judiciary so that they have the capacity and the training to rise above all considerations and only think in humanitarian terms. I have handed over the names of four judges from Pakistan to my distinguished colleague today, who also has some names in his mind. In fact he was telling me that it is only a matter of a few days, he has been working on it the way I was working on this.
Once this is done by both the sides, I think, that will be one major step by Pakistan and India to think at a higher level. Regardless of whether the prisoner is a Pakistani or an Indian, in the first instance he is a human being. There are certain norms to which all human beings are entitled and I think the bringing in of the judges of the higher judiciary in both Pakistan and India will definitely provide relief to prisoners, whether they are undertrials, because the judges will be allowed to visit prisons in each other's country or to help facilitate the early release of those who have completed their sentences.
We discussed many other matters when we were alone. The purpose is to further the peace process. Thank you very much for providing me with this opportunity. I look forward to the interaction with you. Thank you.
Question: Mr. Kasuri, yesterday the Pakistan National Assembly passed a resolution asking for a joint investigation into this blast on the train. Did you formally request India for a joint investigation today? Mr. Mukherjee, did India share whatever leads our investigators already have with the Pakistani delegation today?
Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri: As I have already said in my opening remarks, the Prime Minister of India spoke to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and assured him that the results of the investigation will be shared. The Joint Mechanism is meeting in Islamabad on 6th March and I have no doubt that they will take cognizance of this. I think I would rest my case and let my colleague answer the rest of the question.
Pranab Mukherjee: In fact, as per the law of the land the investigation is to be carried on by India. We will carry on the investigations and, as I have mentioned in my introductory remarks, the perpetrators of this heinous crime will be brought to book. But we have established the Joint Mechanism to deal with terrorism, which is meeting on 6th of March. One of the basic objectives of establishing this institutional mechanism is to share information and to act on that information. Therefore, it is appropriate that by that time whatever information will be available in respect of this case will be shared with the Pakistani authorities as we have shared with them in respect of certain other cases too.
Question: My question is addressed to the Indian Foreign Minister. As Indian Prime Minister has on many occasions expressed a desire to make Siachen region as a mountain of peace, Pakistan has given so many proposals to Indian Government, the response from Indian Government is still awaited. What are your comments on this?
Pranab Mukherjee: Various proposals have been received and as Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh responded, all these proposals are being considered and we are ready to discuss each and every proposal. The resumption of dialogue under the Composite Dialogue format is going to start the fourth round of discussion. The process has begun with the Foreign Secretaries level talks last November. Therefore, the various suggestions which are coming will be considered.
Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri: Excuse me, there is one decision we had taken last time. I would just like to say that on this issue we have both agreed that DGMOs would meet. This decision was announced in Islamabad. We have suggested certain dates and I spoke to His Excellency about that. As soon as the dates are agreed, we will be very happy for that meeting to take place.
Question: My question is to both the Ministers.
One of the issues that is being discussed is to have a tourism visa. But given the scale of what has happened on Sunday, what are the steps that are going to be taken by both Governments to protect the lives of innocent passengers who are using cross-border means of transport?
My question to Mr. Kasuri is what is the occasion for the DGMOs to meet on Siachen given that the Composite Dialogue process is on? What will the DGMOs be discussing when they talk on Siachen?
Pranab Mukherjee: So far as the question of liberalization of visa including the tourist visa is concerned, we had some discussions during my visit to Islamabad and discussions with the Minister. We have received the draft from Pakistan and we are examining it. We want to liberalize the visa and encourage tourism. The Joint Working Group also made certain recommendations.
In respect of discussions between the DGMOs, as you are aware, we had several rounds of discussions -- if I remember correctly, nine rounds of discussions - on Siachen. The discussions have taken place both at the civil and military levels. One round of discussion took place at the military level. It was suggested that our officials will be meeting, and officials include both civil and military, and it was suggested that a meeting will take place between the DGMO of India and at the appropriate level of Pakistan Armed Forces. Dates will be sorted out later.
Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri: Let me take the second part first and then I will come to the one on tourists and what we need to do about protecting tourists from each other's countries.
I did, as I said, utilize the opportunity of discussing all aspects of the Composite Dialogue because it would be a pity if we wasted an opportunity. So, we discussed Kashmir, Siachen, and Sir Creek. I do not think I have to add to what His Excellency has said about DGMOs. I think the question is answered. We had agreed to a date. I spoke to His Excellency and we are waiting for India to respond.
You asked me about steps being taken to protect tourists. I agree with you entirely - the spirit of the question is very positive -- that if we wish to promote tourism, we will have to take steps to protect tourists from each other's countries. I did suggest to my worthy colleague today that since the Railways is being used as a mass means of communication and it is by far the largest means of communication, maybe we need the railway authorities also to interact with each other - Pakistani Railways and Indian Railways - to learn from this experience and prevent a tragedy of this nature occurring in either country. So, I think a meeting of the Railway officials would be useful. But I am sure that when the anti-terror mechanism meets they will also have an opportunity to look at that. In order to sustain this process, we must ensure that the safety of visitors from each other's countries is to be maximum possible safeguarded.
Question: My question is to Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. Haryana Police Chief says that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is involved in the Samjhauta Express blast. Similar accusation was made when Bombay blasts occurred but nothing came out later on. Your comments.
Pranab Mukherjee: You know that the investigation is in process and it would not be possible to conjecture anything unless the process is complete. That is why I said that when the anti-terror mechanism meets whatever information will be available till then will be shared with Pakistani authorities.
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