NEW YORK: After an hour-long meeting between their prime ministers, India and Pakistan agreed on Sunday to reduce tensions along the Line of Control in Kashmir as the first step towards a comprehensive peace in the region.
Two senior military officials, director generals military operations,— have been tasked to come up with a clear plan to restore ceasefire along the LoC. No timetable for a DGMOs meeting has been decided yet.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited his Indian counterpart to visit Pakistan and Mannmohan Singh invited Mr Sharif to visit India. Both accepted each other’s invitation.
Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Minister for Water and Power Khwaja Asif, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Masood Khan assisted Prime Minister Sharif.
The Indian team included their National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and other senior officials.
The two leaders met with their teams. The meeting went on for over an hour. The two sides focused on a piecemeal approach of separating the resolvable from the non-resolvable, instead of insisting on tackling the major issues first, as they did in the past.
In two separate briefings after the meeting, Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said that the sides had decided to tackle the more immediate issue of LoC first.
“And they decided to task their DGMOs to suggest measure to restore ceasefire at LOC,” said Mr Menon.
“The DGMOs will meet soon to investigate cross-border firing and ensure that there is no reoccurrence of such incidents in future,” Mr Jilani said.
The summit began with low-expectations and the initial atmospherics were not very encouraging. An allegation, attributed to Prime Minister Sharif, muddied the waters as the Pakistani team headed to the New York Palace Hotel, where Mr Singh was staying.
The meeting, which both sides had earlier said would be considered successful if it was not called off, produced an expectedly positive result, an understanding on resolving the potential explosive issue of the LoC.
The two sides, however, also raised more difficult issue, like dispute over Kashmir, but agreed that instead of allowing those issues to derail the talks, they should move ahead and confront more contentious issues later.
The Indian leader urged Mr Sharif to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack” of 2011,” Mr Menon said.
The Pakistani prime minister reiterated the Pakistani position on Kashmir and also discussed the Indian interference in Balochistan.
Each of this issue was explosive enough to derail the talks, but the two leaders decided to go beyond them and focus on an immediate issue that can be resolved, the LoC violations.
Prime Minister Sharif also stressed the need for an early understanding on trade and other relations. He also raised the Siachen and Sir Creek disputes.
But both agreed that “all these would be possible once we dealt with the immediate issues that we confront today”, Mr Menon said.
Asked to give an overall impression of the meeting, Mr Menon called it “useful and constructive” while Mr Jilani described it as “extremely positive”.
The two leaders agreed that “there’s no alternative to a positive, sustained and uninterrupted dialogue”, Mr Jilani added.
Mr Menon said the meeting was “necessary at this point of time” and provided for high-level contacts.
Asked to compare it with other summit meetings between India and Pakistan, Mr Menon said each meeting was different from the other and “today’s meeting dealt with today’s issue”.
Asked if Mr Sharif was the right person to partner with India in the pursuit of peace, Mr Menon said he would not like to “characterise the prime minister of another country”.
Before the meeting, some Indian officials had said that they believed Mr Sharif did not have enough authority over his security apparatus to address India’s security concerns.
Mr Menon said India’s main concern was terrorism and punishing the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks. Mr Sharif promised to address both issues but reminded the Indians that Pakistan too was a victim of terrorism.
After the talks, both sides wished to see a better understanding of peace between the countries, he added. “Our effort is focused on moving towards a broader dialogue but that stage hasn’t come yet,” he said.
Responding to a question about India’s interference in Balochistan, Mr Menon said: “I haven’t heard of any such concern about export of terrorism from India. If there is any proof, happy to look into it.”
He noted that peace and tranquillity along LoC was a precondition for further movement on the peace process.
When an Indian journalist asked him to comment on the Pakistan Army’s alleged role in exporting terrorism, Mr Menon said: “We deal with Pakistan.
We do not interfere in their internal affairs.”
“The main purpose was to create a conducive environment to discuss and resolve all outstanding issues,” said Mr Jilani, explaining Pakistan’s expectations from the talks. “And the leaders expressed their commitment to resolve all their issues.”
Mr Jilani said the two prime ministers had decided that an agreement reached in 2003 should be implemented in letter and spirit to ensure peace along the LoC.
“We are aware of your concerns on terrorism, and I think our concerns are also known on the Indian side,” said Mr Jilani when asked how Pakistan would address India’s concerns on terrorism.
Mr Jilani said that no-one should underestimate the importance of high-level interaction as such meetings had always produced positive results.
He rejected the suggestion that the Pakistani Army did not endorse Mr Sharif’s peace moves.
“All institutions in Pakistan are on the same page. In Pakistan, the decision making process is following the same way as in all democratic countries,” he said.
Mr Jilani said Pakistan also expressed its willingness to address India’s concerns about LeT, JUD and their leader, Hafiz Saeed. The government had already taken over the madressahs JUD was running.
Mr Jilani said Mumbai investigations slowed down because of the delay in the visit of the Judicial Commission. After the visit, they would submit the report and the trial process would be speeded up.