Official Spokesperson: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this Joint Press Interaction with the Excellencies, Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan. May I first request the External Affairs Minister of India, Shri Natwar Singh, to kindly make his opening remarks.
Natwar Singh: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan and I met yesterday and this morning to review the overall progress in bilateral relations and the status of the Composite Dialogue. Our meeting was preceded by a meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries on September 4, 2004. While we both are sincerely committed to carry forward the Composite Dialogue, we should not lose sight of the wise dictum ‘diplomacy provides hope, not salvation’. Even modest progress is worthy of respect. We have made progress in the past two days. My friend, Foreign Minister Kasuri, and I have established rapport and mutual trust.
India is committed to deepen and widen its engagement with Pakistan in order to resolve all issues and to build a durable structure of peace and stability in South Asia free from an atmosphere of terrorism and violence. In his press conference the other day the Prime Minister referred to this matter and I shall do so here too. I would like to recall the Joint Press Statement on January 6 this year, and the reassurance by President Musharraf that he would not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner. Cross-border infiltration remains a serious concern and I have reiterated our concerns to Mr. Kasuri.
Significantly, the ceasefire has held since November 25, 2003, and both sides are committed to continuing it. The first round of the Composite Dialogue has been concluded successfully. The schedule of meetings agreed to in February 2004 was maintained and the outcome of the dialogue process is positive. We have arrived at several agreements that would take the process forward. For example, technical-level meeting would be held in October-November on the Munabao-Khokhrapar railway link. The Indian Coast Guards and the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency will hold talks to discuss a memorandum of understanding for establishing communication links between them. A biannual meeting between the Indian Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers is also scheduled in October. There would be meetings to discuss conventional and nuclear CBMs. Joint Survey of the boundary pillars in the horizontal segment of the International Boundary in the Sir Creek area. A special day-bus service on special occasions between Amritsar and religious places in Lahore such as Nankana Saheb. Enhanced interaction and exchanges between the two foreign offices including study groups of young diplomats to each other’s country.
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan has invited me to visit Pakistan and I have accepted his invitation to visit Pakistan.
Official Spokesperson: May I now request His Excellency, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan to kindly make his opening statement.
Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri: Thank you very much. First of all, I would like to express my thanks and gratitude for the hospitality shown to me and to my Delegation by the Government of India and by the Foreign Minister of India himself personally.
As he told you, we have reviewed progress in all the eight agenda items which were listed under the Composite Dialogue. Of course, he mentioned his concerns and I had to mention mine. I spoke of the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. I suggested to him, as I would like to suggest to the entire international community, that regardless of the words that we use and the gloss that we put, we are all aware of what has been the cause of perpetual tension between our two countries and what has caused three wars between us and a near-war in 2002. That was the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. So, I emphasized to His Excellency the Foreign Minister the centrality of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. I told him that we were not univocal, that it is not that Pakistan is only interested in just discussing Jammu and Kashmir. No. We know that we live in an age when - we call this a post-industrial, post-modern age – there are areas where we can cooperate. There are areas where other countries in the world are cooperating and they are doing so more successfully when the efforts are joint. I am sure there are areas where Pakistan and India can cooperate. The fruits of cooperation will be greater, if we were to go along the lines that we agreed upon and that is that whereas there are differences between Pakistan and India, we should be mature enough to recognize those because that is the only guarantee that we will be able to solve those problems. …(Inaudible)… the very concept of the Composite Dialogue envisages that there should be progress on all items. Hopefully there will be progress on all the eight items mentioned under the Composite Dialogue.
I am glad to note, as the External Affairs Minister has pointed out here, he has read you a long list of agreements between the two Foreign Ministers and I do not have to repeat those. A greater list will be published when on the 8th of this month, a Joint Statement will be issued by the two Foreign Ministers. I do not think I need to repeat some of those items. Suffice it to say that among the major issues we have agreed that on nuclear and conventional CBMs we need to have meetings where experts and groups can meet together, discuss each other’s suggestions. As you know, the Government of India had made certain suggestions on conventional CBMs: we have made ours. We thought the most mature way of handling that would be to have expert group meetings who would be studying the proposals submitted by both the Governments. I think that is a way forward and I also think we can regard that as one of the successes of the meeting between His Excellency Mr. Natwar Singh, the Foreign Minister of India and myself.
Thank you very much.
Natwar Singh: I just wanted to mention one thing. In our discussion we recognized the importance of availability and access to energy resources in the region around South Asia. We have agreed that the Ministers of Petroleum and Natural Gas could meet to discuss the issue in its multifarious dimensions.
We will take three questions.
Official Spokesperson:Please introduce yourselves and indicate to whom the question is addressed.
Question: My question is to both Ministers.
Obviously, there are differences in perception on issues like cross-border terrorism and Kashmir. You all have been pointing out that progress has been made on some issues. However, I would like to take you back to the June agreement between the Foreign Secretaries on the issues of the Karachi and Mumbai Consulates. How come, despite the announcement that was made two months ago, absolutely no progress had been made till now? And, is it time that even when India and Pakistan have agreed on something in advance, it is time to set up a Joint Implementation Group to actually implement the decisions that have already been taken?
Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri: When His Excellency the Foreign Minister visited Islamabad, we had agreed, this is absolutely correct, to have Consulates in Karachi and Bombay. And yes, we support that. There is no flagging in our intention or desire. The thing is, it is not hidden, that we had asked for Jinnah House. There was some problem as far as the Government of India was concerned and they offered alternate properties which would be suitable for our purposes. Once that property, or those properties are shown to our High Commission here, I am sure an appropriate decision will be taken. That property has not so far been shown.
Natwar Singh: I have spoken to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. We have requested our friends from Pakistan to visit Mumbai and to have a look at various properties because we would like to start this process of reopening our Consulate General in Karachi and Mumbai as early as possible so that it will be more convenient for the citizens of both countries to be able to get their visas either in Mumbai instead of coming to Delhi, or in Karachi instead of going to Islamabad. So both sides are committed to it and the officials are already working.
Official Spokesperson: Since there is no question from the Pakistani side, we will take visual media.
Question: My question is addressed to both the Foreign Ministers.Now, when you are saying that the differences on Kashmir issue remain, will the second round of Composite Dialogue begin? If so, when will it start what will be its structure?
Natwar Singh: Foreign Secretaries of both the countries will meet again in the month of December. Before that, the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singhji and the President of Pakistan, General Musharaf Sahab, will meet in New York and there will be discussion on all issues. There is difference of opinion on some issues because they are critical issues and old issues. But, this Composite Dialogue and the progress made on these many issues will continue.
Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri: I would like to add that I regard certain issues, for example you have mentioned the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, well, yes, these are complex problems. But they are not intractable. I do not believe that they are intractable. Given the political will they can be resolved and they should be resolved. And that is our major guarantee for durable peace in South Asia.
Question: There seems to be a restoration of the position which existed before December 2001 so far as this entire process. So, what are, Mr. Natwar Singh, your expectations about the concrete outcome of this process particularly on the resolution of eight issues with focus on Kashmir dispute?
Natwar Singh: As has been said by Pakistan too, we have to make progress on all areas – economic, political, communication, nuclear, visas, student exchanges, reopening of our houses in Karachi and in Bombay, also the pipeline, also the bus service from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad. On all these areas we have made progress. We realize the fact that there is the Jammu and Kashmir issue and within the framework of the Shimla Agreement, paragraph 6, which says that the Jammu Kashmir question will be discussed and settled peacefully to the satisfaction of both sides; the Lahore talks; the Composite Dialogue decision taken on the 6th of January 2004, so in many many areas progress has been made. We want to emphasise that in Jammu and Kashmir we have had elections and there is an elected Government in Jammu and Kashmir. There is a Chief Minister there and there are Members of Parliament elected, Members of Assembly elected. Nevertheless, we are discussing Jammu and Kashmir issue frankly and in candour. We are expecting each other’s views on this. This will not hold up progress in all other areas as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, my friend, His Excellency Kasuri Sahab has said so, that this process will continue. As I told you, the Foreign Secretaries are meeting, Heads of Government are meeting and I am also hoping to visit to Pakistan and carry on this dialogue.
Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri: I would like to add something to that because it is a very key question that you have asked. I agree with what His Excellency the Foreign Minister has said. We are not imposing preconditions. But it is a matter of pure common sense, it is a mater of historical experience that if we want to push, or if we wish to put, our relations on an even keel, we will have to tackle with the issue of Jammu and Kashmir because, you know, sky is the limit once these two countries start cooperating. In the past we have seen that there have been areas where we have reached pretty good level of relationship. And then, we have seen things when they have deteriorated to the extent of wars. So, it is a matter of common sense, pure logic, that in order to ensure that there will be durable peace in South Asia, this issue would also be resolved hopefully sooner rather than later.
Official Spokesperson: That is all we have time for today. I thank the two Foreign Ministers. Thank you, Sir.
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