Acknowledging that the peace process has been "under strain" in recent months, India and Pakistan on Thursday announced that cross-LoC trade in Jammu and Kashmir will commence on October 21 and vowed to take "severe action" against any elements directing or involved in terrorist acts, giving fresh momentum for an "an early and full" normalisation of bilateral relations.
Unveiling a slew of measures for a "peaceful resolution and saisfactory settlement" of all bilateral issues including Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his first meeting with the new Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari agreed that the forces that have tried to derail the peace process msut be "defeated."
Meeting on the sidelines of the 63rd United Nations General Assembly session at the Millenium hotel where the Pakistan President is staying, the two leaders came out with a joint statement agreeing that violence, hostility and terrorism have no place in the vision they share of the bilateral relationship and must be "visibly and verifiably" prevented.
In an apparent attempt to tell India that let bygones be bygones in the backdrop of rise in cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations, Zardari reassured Singh that the Pakistan government stood by its commitments of January 6, 2004 to stamp out terrorism.
With the needle of suspicion pointing to Pakistans ISI for the bombing of he Indian Embassy in Kabul, the two leaders agreed to convene a special meeting of the Joint Anti-Terror mechanism to address mutual concerns including the Kabul attack.
The two countries agreed to commence cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot roads on October 21,2008, open the Wagah-Attari road link to all permissible items on trade and the Khokrapar-Munabao rail route to all allowed items of trade.
The two leaders addressed the apparent lack of progress at the Foreign Secretary level talks to resolve outstanding issues saying they will schedule meetings of the Fifth round of the Composite dialogue in the next three months which will focus on "deliverables and concrete achievements."
Briefing newsmen after the nearly hour-long meeting, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said Prime Minister Singh was "very satisfied" at the meeting. The joint statement is a strong one in regard to the approach to be followed to deal with terrorism, he said, adding "we hope progress will be made on all (bilateral) issues.
Congratulating President Zardari on his election and the victory of democracy in Pakistan, Singh expressed the hope that this would pave the way for a "profound transformation" of the bilateral relationship so that India and Pakistan could work together on their shared objectives of peace prosperity and security.
The two leaders agreed to work for an early and full normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan on the basis of "mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and non-interference."
"Both leaders acknowledged that the peace process has been under strain in recent months. They agreed that violence, hostility and terrorism have no place in the vision they share at the bilateral relationship and must be visibly and verifiably prevented," the joint statement said.
"Severe action would be taken against any elements directing or involved in terrorist acts. President Zardari reassured Prime Minister Singh that the government of Pakistan stands by its commitments of January 6, 2004," it said.
Stressing that forces that have tried to derail the peace process must be defeated, the joint statement said this would allow the continuation and deepening of a constructive dialogue for the peaceful resolution and satisfactory settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.
The rise in ceasefire violations by Pakistan apparently figured in the meeting with the joint statement saying that the ceasefire should be stabilised and that to this end the DGMOs and Sector Commanders will stay in regular contact.
At his briefing, Menon hoped India and Pakistan would move in "tandem" in dealing with all aspects relating to bilateral relations.