NEW DELHI, Aug 6: India and Pakistan on Saturday agreed to set up a nuclear hotline between their foreign secretaries in September, the two sides officially announced at the end of two-day talks on nuclear confidence-building measures.

A separate hotline was agreed to be established between the directors-general military operations (DGMOs) of the two countries as part of the conventional CBMs, informed sources told Dawn.

Formal discussions on conventional CBMs will be held on Monday. Informed sources privately said that the quick pace at which decisions on nuclear CBM were taken, despite lingering differences, was spurred by the proposed meeting of their leaders in New York in September.

In their talks, which were extended late into the evening, Indian foreign ministry’s additional secretary Meera Shankar and her Pakistani counterpart Tariq Osman Hyder stitched up an agreement also on a formal structure to be followed for notifying proposed missile tests by each side.

The round of discussions that concluded on Saturday was the third meeting held between India and Pakistan at the level of experts on the nuclear CBMs, under the composite dialogue process. The two sides said they held wide-ranging discussions in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, including on their security concepts and nuclear doctrines.

“Sanity has prevailed on both sides,” a Pakistani delegate exulted.

“We believe this is a very positive beginning. It forms the basis for us to move forward on other major areas of our nuclear CBMs.”

A joint statement said the two sides reached an understanding on the proposed agreement on pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles.

“The proposed agreement commits both sides to pre-notify in a structured format flight testing of ballistic missiles, with the objective of enhancing mutual confidence and engendering predictability and transparency of intent.

“The experts have jointly recommended the agreed text of the proposed agreement to the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan for formalisation,” the joint statement said. One of their several differences on the missile test issue was that India had asked for the tests to be launched from at least 50km away from the border. Pakistan was willing to commit only to 30km. Finally, according to sources, they agreed at 40km as the least distance both sides would observe between their land border and the launch sites. “In pursuance of the MoU of 21 February 1999 which inter alia provided for undertaking national measures to reduce the risks of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons under their respective control, the Indian side handed over a draft of such a proposed agreement,” the statement said.

The two sides emphasized the importance of early operationalisation of the hotline link proposed to be established between the foreign secretaries, through their respective foreign offices, to prevent misunderstandings and reduce risks relevant to nuclear issues. “In this connection, discussions on related technical parameters were held. Details about implementation and testing schedules were exchanged.

“It was agreed that the hotline link will be established in September 2005,” the statement said. It added that the two sides also agreed to report the progress made in the present round of the talks to their foreign secretaries, who would decide on the date and venue of the next expert-level meeting on nuclear CBMs.

Agencies add: “The result of the talks is the agreement on the pre-notification of the ballistic missile tests,” Ms Shankar said.



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