ISLAMABAD, April 27: The third round of Pakistan-India dialogue on conventional CBMs concluded on Thursday with experts agreeing on some important measures, including finalisation of ‘ground rules’ for implementation along the international border.
Other confidence-building measures agreed upon between the two sides were: finalisation of modalities for holding quarterly flag meetings — and on needs basis — between sector-level commanders in the already agreed sectors; no new posts would be developed and no fresh defence work would be carried out along the LoC, and finalisation of an agreement on speedy repatriation of those who inadvertently cross the Line of Control.
Both sides agreed to periodically discuss further CBMs and review the implementation of conventional CBMs as called for in the Lahore MoU of 1999 and as mandated by foreign secretaries in the composite dialogue process, said the joint statement issued after the talks.
The Pakistan delegation was led by additional secretary (UN) ministry of foreign affairs Tariq Osman Hyder and Dilip Sinha, joint secretary in the Indian ministry of external affairs, led his side at the talks.
Pakistan presented a draft agreement to the Indian side on ‘prevention of incidents at sea’ to ensure safety of navigation by naval vessels and aircraft belonging to the two sides.
Addressing a joint press conference with Mr Sinha later, Mr Hyder described the talks as ‘productive and positive’.
In reply to a question about Pakistan’s proposal of demilitarisation and reduction of troops in Kashmir, Mr Sinha said: “We have made our position quite clear that the deployment of forces in any part of India is our sovereign right and it is taken in conjunction with the security situation. Depending upon the security situation it will be decided upon.”
Later, Mr Hyder gave a briefing to the media on the three-day deliberations on nuclear and conventional CBMs. He mentioned some key issues that Pakistan had flagged and proposals it had made but were not agreed to.
He said that a ‘very serious and sincere proposal’ made by Pakistan was redeployment as a measure of reducing threat along the Line of Control. He said that a major CBM proposed was redeployment by both sides of artillery, guns, rockets and mortars above 120mm outside the boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is in line with our president’s proposal and our national policies to try to work towards resolving the Kashmir dispute and the concept of demilitarisation,” he said, underlining that heavy guns were needed only for offensive operations.
Mr Hyder said the Indian side was not ready to accept the proposal on the grounds that it was their sovereign right where they wished to keep their formations. He, however, hoped that India would consider the proposal.
He was also hopeful that India would re-look at Pakistan’s proposal that there should be no forward relocation of offensive or strike formations from the existing peace locations towards border.
He said Pakistan had pointed out that it was opposed to the introduction of Anti-Ballistic Missile systems in the region which India had been discussing with America, Russia and Israel.
He said Pakistan’s view was that introduction of the ABM system in the region would be destabilising and trigger an arms race because the only option available to the other side was to enhance its own missile capability. He said Pakistan was told that India had yet to take a decision on the issue.
BORDER RULES: Elaborating on the ‘Border Ground Rules’, the additional secretary said the idea was to manage the situation on the border and to formalise an agreement.
Terming the agreement to finalise border rules a positive development, he said: “We have been proposing that they (border rules) should be revitalised, reinvigorated, reinstated and the Indian side has today agreed that they will work with us towards finalising ground border rules, not the reinstatement of the old ones but finalisation of the new ones.”
He made it clear that it involved no territorial adjustments. Giving a background, he said: “The situation was that in the 1960 we had formalised what was the West Pakistan and India Border Ground Rules. In 1961, they were reviewed and since 1971 they have not been implemented by the Indian side.”
NO-WAR PACT: Mr Hyder said the Indian side did mention the question of an agreement on peace and tranquillity along the LoC.
Articulating Pakistan’s position, he said: “We have told them before and we’ve again repeated it now that we want peace and tranquillity all along our borders with India, not just along the LoC but also international borders.”
Referring to the no-war pact, he said: “We have offered India a no-war pact and for us no-war pact is the essential element.”
He asserted that Pakistan’s doctrine was non-aggressive and defensive. He said it was conveyed to the Indian side that Islamabad felt that 90 per cent of their offensive capabilities were targeting Pakistan.
“For us the biggest conventional CBM would be (that) India reduces the ground forces, pulls back from its massive military acquisitions and (decreases) their military budget so that on the ground we can see that what they say and what is on the ground is in consonance,” Mr Hyder said.
The strategic stability, he emphasised, must transcend into the conventional field as well.
INDO-US DEAL: Mr Hyder said Pakistan made it clear to the Indian side that Delhi’s nuclear deal with Washington was not a positive development in terms of strategic stability as it left out several Indian nuclear reactors outside safeguards.
“We are against an arms race and we made this point very strongly even in this proposed agreement that we do not want an arms race in the sub-continent, globally etc.,” he said. He, however, added: “We will certainly maintain our credible deterrence whatever developments may take place across our borders.”
On the proposal of strategic restraint regime, he said Pakistan had maintained that there should be measures of restraint.
NUKE-PACT: About the proposed agreement of reducing risk of a nuclear accident, Mr Hyder said: “We did negotiate with a very positive spirit,” pointing out that during the course four drafts were exchanged between the two sides.