THE FOREIGN secretaries of India and Pakistan on Tuesday agreed to activate the joint anti-terror mechanism, which had been announced in September after the Havana summit between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
The “compact mechanism” may comprise three or four officials. It may be headed by an official of additional-secretary rank from either of the foreign ministries.
Terrorism was the key issue at the talks between the delegations led by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammad Khan. The foreign secretaries were meeting after a hiatus of four months and for the first time since the Mumbai blasts in July. Sources said “some evidence” of acts of terrorism, which requires following up in Pakistan, had been handed over to the Pakistani delegation.
Menon spoke at length on the need to curb incidents of terror that have been increasing in the past year in various parts of India. Khan responded that Pakistan too was a victim of terror.
The foreign secretaries reviewed the progress of the bilateral dialogue, including aspects of the eight-point composite dialogue process related to Jammu and Kashmir, and the confidence-building measures (CBMs) which were agreed upon but had not yet been implemented.
Among the CBMs discussed were the Kargil-Skardu bus service (“in cold storage,” an official said), trading of goods across the Line of Control, travel to pilgrimage centres and exchange of civilian prisoners. The issue of Siachen, which was spoken of in the overall context of security measures in J&K, is likely to be discussed at length when the delegations meet again on Wednesday.
There were “no substantive talks” on the subject, which Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri had said could be resolved in "a matter of days”. Officials said it was unlikely, despite the talks scheduled for Wednesday, that the delegations would even agree on specific dates for the defence secretaries to meet and discuss the matter further.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee set the tenor on the Siachen issue on Tuesday morning when he said, “Several rounds of talks are being held on Siachen.” When asked about Kasuri’s statement, he said, “It is not necessary for me on every occasion to respond to observations made by some foreign dignitary." Before troops are withdrawn from the Siachen glacier, India seeks an authentication of the actual positions held on the ground.
Spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry Navtej Sarna said that when the Pakistani delegation met Mukherjee in the evening, the minister reiterated the need to contain acts of terrorism and spoke of “why it was important to jointly fight terrorism”. “The extensive discussions, held over four hours, were constructive and positive,” said Sarna.
They were even carried on during a working lunch. Yet it was unclear if a joint statement would eventually emanate from the discussions.