New Delhi: In their
first contact after the July 13 Mumbai terror attacks, Indian and
Pakistani officials met Monday to firm up new confidence-building
measures to expand trade and travel across the two halves of
Kashmir, which are likely to be unveiled during the foreign
minister-level talks later this month.
A Pakistani delegation headed by Zehra H. Akbari, Director General
South Asia Division (DGSA) in Pakistan's Foreign Office, held a
meeting of the joint working group with the Indian team led by by
Y.K. Sinha, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and
Iran, in India's foreign office.
"The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere," the external
affairs ministry said in a statement here after the talks.
"During the meeting, both sides reviewed the existing cross-LoC
travel and trade arrangements to ensure their effective
implementation and exchanged views on additional measures to
facilitate cross-LoC travel and trade," the ministry said.
Among the proposals on the table were the launch of the
Kargil-Skardu bus link, an increase in the frequency of
cross-Kashmir bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and an
increase in the number of trading days from two to four across the
LoC, said informed sources.
Some of these cross-Kashmir CBMs, which seek to enhance travel and
trade among the people of the two halves of Kashmir, are likely to
be announced when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna holds
talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Hina Rabbani Khar, July 27.
Khar is currently the junior foreign minister and Pakistani Prime
Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is understood to have recommended her
elevation as a full-fledged minister ahead of the India-Pakistan
foreign minister-level talks this month.
Khar will be coming here July 26. The foreign ministers' meeting
will be preceded by preparatory talks between Pakistan's Foreign
Secretary Salman Bashir and his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao
The cross-Kashmir CMBs are at the heart of people-to-people
initiatives the foreign secretaries decided on during their talks
in Islamabad last month.
Officials of the two sides also discussed finer points of an
agreement on liberalising the visa regime that will spur greater
people-to-people contacts, said sources.
No one has claimed responsibility for the July 13 Mumbai serial
blasts that killed 19 people and injured over 130. Unlike in
similar situations earlier, India has scrupulously avoided any
insinuation linking elements in Pakistan to the terror strikes.
New Delhi's restraint has been widely lauded in Pakistan and is
seen as sign of strong will on India's part to continue the
re-engagement process it started with Pakistan in February.