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(2011-06-24)

Well good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your patience. Let me first of all welcome Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to Islamabad. We welcome her for many reasons. It was some years ago that we started a process and I think that process is now well on its way. Her visit provided us an opportunity to fulfill the mandate that was given to us by our respective Prime Ministers. And I think on the whole before I say anything more I would like to ask the Spokesperson to read out the text of the Joint Statement that we have agreed to issue.

(Joint statement was read out)

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir:

I think the issuance of this Joint Statement indicates that we have had a very productive and constructive engagement which was forward looking and imbued with a sense of purpose. I must underscore here that the quality of the engagement really matters and we have every reason to be satisfied with that quality. Of course, all three segments that have been mentioned in the Joint Statement were the subject of deep deep conversations. I wish to thank here, the Foreign Secretary, my colleague from India, for showing not only great professional ability, sensitivity and understanding. With these words, I would request her to say a few words.

Foreign Secretary of India, Ms. Nirupama Rao:

Good evening to all of you. Thank you for your patience and waiting for this press briefing. Over the last one and a half days, the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Mr. Salman Bashir and I have had discussions on a wide range of issues.

The Joint Statement that was issued at the conclusion of our talks has just been released to all of you. In our discussions, we were guided by the vision of our two Prime Ministers to build trust and confidence by discussing various issues in an open and constructive manner and in a forward looking manner.
We have been fully conscious of the complexities in our relationship and the consequent need to take incremental steps to promote mutual confidence and understanding. In doing this, we are inspired by our goal of the eventual normalization of the India-Pakistan relationship and the resolution of outstanding issues through peaceful, sustained and serious bilateral dialogue. The shadow of the gun and the violence it has unleashed has caused untold sufferings for our people in these years past. This needs to end. The ideology of military conflict should have no place in the paradigm of our relationship in the 21st Century. Indeed, this relationship should be characterized by the vocabulary of peace; on ground cooperation in the interest of our peoples, growing trade and economic interaction as well as people to people contacts, and on this let me emphasize, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

The talks that we have held this time were not an event in isolation but part of a dialogue process which is building greater trust between us. We also took this opportunity to exchange views on preparation for the meeting of our Ministers of External and Foreign Affairs in New Delhi next month. This has been a positive meeting and I thank Foreign Secretary Bashir and his colleagues for what has been a constructive and substantive discussion.

I thank you.

Questions & Answers Session:

Foreign Secretaries will now take questions, first from Pakistani media followed by the Indian media.

Sumaira Khan: (Express 24/7)

Q: Thank you so much, this is Sumaira Khan from Express 24/7. My question is to both Excellencies. Can you please highlight the specifics of the discussions? I am asking this with regard to a move towards the solution of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. What was specifically discussed during these three rounds of talks? Thank you

Foreign Secretary Bashir: I think first of all you ought to recognize that we have started again a very substantive process which has various components. Of course the Foreign Secretaries are entrusted with dealing the issue of Jammu and Kashmir as well as peace and security, CBMs and now also friendly exchanges. On the Kashmir Issue we have had deep conversations. This is a process as you would note that we would like to take forward. Of course, there are well known positions of both countries on this issue but nonetheless we have agreed to continue to further discuss matters specifically relating to to Jammu and Kashmir with a view to finding common ground. I think the key point here is carrying forward the engagement and making it more purposeful. But that’s not all. I think the decision to reconvene the Working Group on LoCs, CBMs on the issue of facilitating further the travel and trade arrangements is all directed to take this process forward with a view to creating more comfort and relief for the Kashmiri people.

Foreign Secretary Rao: I think we have to build peace and reconciliation step by step. As I mentioned in my earlier remarks, we must do away with the shadow of the gun and extremist violence because it is only in an atmosphere free of violence that we can discuss the resolution of such a complex issue. The convening of the LOC CBMs Working Group, I think, is a very important step because I have always maintained that people are at the heart of our relationship and we must help the people of Jammu and Kashmir to connect with each other, to trade, to travel more easily and essentially I think this is the process we need to build on, to strengthen, to sustain. And I think the benefits of that process will be there for all of us to see as time goes by.

Saurav Shukla:(Headlines Today)

Q: Good Evening. My question is from both the Foreign Secretaries. What about 26/11. Madam Secretary, did you talk about 26/11 terror attacks because there continues to be a tardy progress on the investigations into this issue. Have you raised this with Mr. Bashir? And Mr. Bashir have you changed your mind about India’s evidence as just being a piece of literature?

Foreign Secretary Rao: Let me say on the issue of 26/11 which was obviously of critical importance for us. We have already had very useful discussion between the Home and Interior Secretaries of the two countries. That meeting has had very good outcomes. And I did follow up on those discussions. We did talk about matters relating to the 26/11 trial and the pending issues relating to it. And we had good discussions on this matter. I continued to underline and emphasize India’s concern that we must have satisfactory closure because that will enable us to move on with the process of normalization.

Foreign Secretary Bashir: As the Indian FS has just said this is a matter that has been the subject of talks and engagement between our respective departments i.e. the Interior Ministry and the Home Department of Government of India. I think there has been two way communication between them and I think that the spirit prevails and these communications, we hope, will result in something that is useful. Having said that, I would like to add that while we do understand the concerns in India about Mumbai Incident, we hope and expect that this issue in a generic sense i.e. the issue of terrorism requires objectivity; requires to be addressed in a collaborative approach. I believe that has been the spirit of the engagement between our respective departments. And the Foreign Secretaries agree that it was necessary. Terrorism poses a threat to the two countries and to civilized societies. It must be eliminated. I think that certainly is the sense and the purpose in which this and other related issues were discussed.

Afzal Bajwa:(Online)

Q: I will be obliged if the worthy Foreign Secretaries, would like to say something about the progress made in the Samjhotaexpress incident?

Foreign Secretary Rao: Well let me say on the Samjhota Train blast issue, this also formed the subject matter of discussion between the Home Secretary of India and the Interior Secretary of Pakistan when they met a few months ago. And we have stated very clearly that once the investigation is completed, we will share the outcomes with the Government of Pakistan.

Foreign Secretary Bashir: That certainly is the case. All such matters which relate to the two incidents which are in the terror category are being dealt with by the Interior and Home Secretaries level engagement. I think that is a positive development as far as I can see.

Archis Mohan:(Telegraph)

Q: This is to both of you. Can you please say something about the specifics as regards to the CBMs. Whether you have agreed to open new trading points? Whether there are chances of increasing the frequency of the bus service? And what are the specifics for the liberalization of Visa regime?

Foreign Secretary Rao: Well all these ideas were discussed in our meeting. And as the Joint Statement has stated there will be a meeting of the Cross LOC CBMs Working Group very shortly, before the visit of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan to India. All these issues that you have referred to including the increase in the number of trading days, the issuance of travel permits, making travel easier, banking facilities, the bus transportation links including road connectivity form the part of Cross LoC CBMs. And they are very much on the agenda of discussion.

218-A/2011
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