Next round of composite talks from Jan

Published September 3, 2005

ISLAMABAD, Sept 2: Pakistan and India have agreed on a schedule for the third round of the composite dialogue that would commence in January 2006 and conclude by July the same year.

According to a joint press statement issued at the end of talks between their foreign secretaries here on Friday, both sides agreed to the following roadmap:

Foreign secretaries would meet in January 2006 in New Delhi to launch the next round of the composite dialogue. Meetings on all the other subjects would be held between January and July 2006, but technical-level meetings would be concluded by April 2006.

The eight areas included in the composite dialogue framework are peace and security, including CBMs; Jammu and Kashmir; Siachen; Wullar barrage/Tulbul navigation project; Sir Creek; terrorism and drug trafficking; economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields.

Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and his Indian counterpart Shyam Saran, who reviewed progress of the second round of the dialogue on Thursday, reached an understanding on a host of confidence-building measures.

A number of agreements reached and recommendations made by the foreign secretaries have been reflected in the joint statement. These include holding of a technical-level meeting as soon as possible on the early operationalization of Poonch-Rawalakot bus service and a truck service for trade on the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar route as well as further discussions on meeting points across LoC for divided families.

They welcomed the continuation of the ceasefire and recommended that the agreement on pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles and the memorandum of understanding on establishing communication links between the Pakistan maritime security agency and the Indian coast guard be signed during the forthcoming ministerial-level review meeting on Oct 3-5 in Islamabad.

They also proposed that a meeting of the joint commission should be held during the visit of External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh to Pakistan on Oct 3-5, 2005.

The foreign secretaries expressed satisfaction over positive developments during the current round of the composite dialogue. They reaffirmed the ‘important outcomes’ of discussions between President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reflected in the April 18 joint statement.

Mr Khan and Mr Saran reiterated the importance of enhancing mutually beneficial economic cooperation and friendly exchanges. They noted that technical meetings would be held in September 2005 to review the bilateral air services agreement and the shipping protocol. Technical experts will finalize modalities for operationalization of the Lahore-Amritsar and Nankana Sahib- Amritsar bus services during the current month.

“Talks were held in a cordial, constructive and friendly atmosphere,” the statement said.

The foreign secretaries agreed that the 1988 cultural exchange programme accord should be revised. They noted the decision to expand the 1974 bilateral protocol on visits to religious shrines to increase the number of pilgrims and add new sites in both countries. In addition, it was agreed to undertake an updating of the 1974 visa agreement.

They agreed on the need to improve, on humanitarian grounds, the existing mechanism for expeditious disposal of consular issues related to prisoners, fishermen and inadvertent line-crossers of either side.

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