ISLAMABAD, Oct 8: Pakistan and India will hold back to back expert-level talks on conventional and nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs) in New Delhi in the third week of October during which they are expected to firm up the two pending agreements on speedy return of inadvertent border crossers and incidents at sea.
This was stated by the outgoing Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam while responding to a question at a weekly news briefing here on Monday.
Ms Aslam, who has been designated as Pakistan’s ambassador to Italy, was addressing her last news briefing as the spokesperson.
She said the talks on conventional CBMs with India would be held on October 18 and the meeting on nuclear CBMs on October 19.
Recalling that the last round was held in April 2006 in Islamabad, Ms Aslam said: “These meetings will review the implementation of the CBMs already agreed upon. Also, the two sides may discuss new proposals.”
On a more specific note she added: “At the forthcoming meeting the two sides will discuss, among other CBMs the two main proposals under consideration regarding the return of inadvertent line crossers. This is a humanitarian issue. Both governments accept that and now an agreement is being negotiated and we hope this would be signed at the earliest. The second one is about incidents at sea.”
The spokesperson also told the briefing that the second meeting of Anti Terrorism Mechanism (ATM) would be held in New Delhi on October 22.
PEACE PROCESS: The spokesperson disagreed with the notion that there was instability in Pakistan and that it had slowed down the peace process with India.
“First of all there is no instability in Pakistan. This is an election year and obviously there is lot of activity. As in other countries, elections generate activity and emotions and we are no different in that sense. Secondly, there should no slowing down of the composite dialogue because of any event either in Pakistan or India.”
“We don’t have any fixed time frame for the review meeting of the Foreign Secretary or Foreign Minister but these will take place this year,” she said.
SIACHEN: When her attention was drawn to the fact that despite repeated protests by Pakistan, India had decided to open Siachen to tourists from the whole world and asked whether this would have an adverse impact on the composite dialogue, the spokesperson said: “No, they aren’t opening it to tourists from around the world. That is not my information. They have put together a select group and sent them. I am not aware of any decision by the Indian government to make open Siachen to international tourism.”
QUAKE: Summing up the role of the international community in the reconstruction process in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake which struck the northern areas of Pakistan two years back, she said: “In the initial phases it was very actively involved. We had a donor’s conference and earlier the US also launched flash appeals and organised conferences. All in all we got $5.7 billion, out of which $2.5 billion was in the shape of grants and $3.1 billion was in the form of soft loans which we took from various countries. Out of this amount close to $3 billion has been dispersed for rehabilitation and reconstruction.”
POLLS: When asked if the US pressing the government for free and fair elections in Pakistan did not put to question the sovereignty of the country, she said: “What we have to remember is that free and fair elections are an expectation and demand of the people and the government has made a commitment to the people that the elections will be fair and free.”
Responding to a question about the international community’s response to Gen Musharraf’s re-election she said: “He has received a few messages of felicitation from Turkey, Jordan and some other countries. I do not have the exact number but I think there are some others as well.”