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TASHKENT: The nine-point Tashkent Declaration signed this afternoon [Jan 10] by President Ayub Khan and Premier Shastri envisages military disengagement along the Indo-Pakistan borders and the Kashmir cease-fire line by Feb 25 and paves the way for normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan and discussions on the highest and other levels on matters of direct concern to both countries, including the protracted Kashmir dispute.

The declaration was signed this afternoon by President Ayub and the Indian Prime Minister at a brief ceremony at the Uzbekistan Government Secretariat. The Indo-Pakistan declaration was witnessed by Premier Kosygin, who presided over the opening plenary session of the Tashkent Conference last Tuesday.

In its preamble this joint statement expresses the firm resolve of President Ayub and Premier Shastri to promote understanding and friendly relations among the 600 million people of Pakistan and India.

Noteworthy from Pakistan’s viewpoint is the inclusion in the Tashkent Declaration of reference to discussions on Jammu and Kashmir which President Ayub and Premier Shastri had against the backdrop of continued tension between India and Pakistan. Although inconclusive these discussions constituted an advance on the previous Indian position that the Kashmir dispute should not be discussed at the Tashkent talks.

There is no change, however, in India’s view as to the status of the disputed state.

Other points in the Indo-Pakistan declaration important from Pakistan’s standpoint refer to the genocide of Muslims (paragraph 8 on evictions and exodus) in Kashmir and Assam, an agreement on implementation of existing agreements between India and Pakistan and machinery to resolve matters of direct concern to both countries.

President Ayub and Premier Shastri have agreed under paragraph 4 of the declaration to discourage propaganda through newspapers, radio and other forms of mass communication against each other’s country. This is expected to create a better climate for the implementation of the Tashkent Declaration.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2016