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Friday, July 08, 2011 (12:31:48)
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India, Pakistan to announce CBMs on Kashmir, nuclear issues

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New Delhi, July 8: India and Pakistan are set to unveil specific cross-Kashmir and nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs) when their foreign ministers meet here from July 26-27 amid an improved atmosphere to continue the resumed peace process.

The talks between the foreign ministers will be preceded by a meeting of foreign secretaries and separate meetings of working groups on cross-border and nuclear CBMs agreed during the talks in Islamabad last month.

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is expected to come here July 25 to meet his counterpart Nirupama Rao, setting the agenda for the talks between the foreign ministers.

Pakistan's Minister of State for External Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, who is widely speculated to be the next foreign minister, is expected to come to New Delhi for talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

All issues will be on the table, including terrorism and Kashmir, said government sources.

Unlike the foreign minister-level talks that broke down last year and degenerated into mutual recrimination, the talks are being held this time round amid growing realization that the two countries must keep the dialogue process going.

The process was resumed in February after more than two years of freeze following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack blamed on Pakistani terrorists.

Earlier this week, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani described India as Islamabad's most "important neighbour" and stressed that New Delhi would have to play a more positive and accommodating role and respond to his country's legitimate security concerns.

Rao told a television channel that Pakistan's attitude towards terror had changed, and India must take note of it.

These remarks came as a surprise to many and signalled a new spirit of mutual accommodation that has marked the re-engagement process between the two neighbours.

Before the meeting of foreign ministers, India and Pakistan will have a meeting of their working group on new CBMs for expanding trade and travel across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the two halves of Kashmir.

The Pakistani delegation on cross-border CBMs will be led by Zehra H. Akbari, Director General South Asia Division (DGSA). Y.K. Sinha, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, is expected to lead the Indian team.

The CBMs being discussed between the two sides include the launch of the Kargil-Skardu bus link, increasing the frequency of cross-Kashmir bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and an increase in the number of trading days across the LoC, said well-placed sources.

The cross-Kashmir CBMs are likely to be announced by the foreign ministers on July 27.

There will also be a separate meeting of the working group on nuclear CBMs, which will be led by India's Venkatesh Verma, joint secretary in charge of disarmament, and Pakistan's Irfan Yusuf Shami, Director General Disarmament Division (DGD) in the foreign office.

Besides the CBMS, the two sides are engaged in intense negotiations for an agreement on liberalising the visa regime. This could be sealed during the meeting between the foreign ministers. (IANS)