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Indo-Pak joint anti-terror body planned

Both Foreign Secretaries will meet in Islamabad in February to start the fourth round of the eight-point composite dialogue process, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2006 01:49 IST

India and Pakistan have agreed to each set up an official three-member anti-terror mechanism, mandated after the Havana summit between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf, that is intended to function as the "address" through which all future cross-border counter-terrorism linkages will be routed.

The official delegations, led by Foreign Secretaries Shivshankar Menon and Riaz Mohammad Khan, also agreed to meet in Islamabad in February to start the fourth round of the eight-point composite dialogue process.

Setting up the joint mechanism, to be headed by Indian official KC Singh, additional secretary (International Organisations), and Tariq Osman Haider, additional secretary (UN&EC) on the Pakistani side, was a key decision arrived at after two days of intensive discussions led by the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Secretaries.

Its mandate would be to consider counter-terrorism measures, including through the "regular and timely" sharing of information, the three-page joint press statement said.

Indian concerns about "cross-border linkages" in acts of terrorism was discussed at length, after which India handed over "some material" related to terrorist incidents over the past year at Varanasi, New Delhi and Mysore.

The "material," as Khan called it, did not relate to the Mumbai serial train bombings of July 11 and would be examined by Pakistani experts, Khan said.

According to Menon, "We handed over some information in writing in the cases where our investigations are over and the charge-sheets filed." Material (evidence) on the Mumbai blasts has not been handed over because the "legal processes" are not complete and the charge-sheet has not been filed, Menon clarified.

Mumbai was, however raised, verbally in the context of cross-border terror linkages, and Indian concerns were made amply clear to Pakistan when the Foreign Secretary-level review was postponed in July after those blasts.

"It is the cross border links that we raised with Pakistan about acts of terror (committed in India). The joint anti-terror mechanism is one way of dealing with it. We hope it will take some action," Menon said.

He acknowledged that there was terrorism in Pakistan and said it was up to both the countries to deal with it. Menon said India has conveyed to Pakistan that it should put an end to activities of groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba, which is banned in both the countries, and indulges in acts of terrorism in India.

Talks on Siachen focused on "what worries us", Menon said, acknowledging that "there is still a gap in positions that needs to be bridged." Khan said "fears and apprehensions (on the Siachen positions) sometimes become shadows" that come in the way of resolution of this "resolvable issue."

At the conclusion of the "very useful and constructive talks" between Menon and his counterpart Khan on Wednesday, a joint statement outlined the narrowing of "divergences" and focused on areas of "convergence".

Addressing back-to-back press conferences after the talks, Khan and Menon said they reviewed the third round of the bilateral composite dialogue process, discussing options in Jammu and Kashmir, and the need to operationalise confidence-building measures already agreed upon, like the cross-Line of Control truck service for trade on agreed items.

Other "areas of convergence" outlined in the joint statement are:

1.A meeting of experts to be held on December 22-23, 2006 to decide on the coordinates for joint survey of Sir Creek and adjoining areas, without prejudice to each other's position, as well as to simultaneously conduct discussions on the Maritime Boundary. The joint survey to be completed by February 2007.

2. The agreement on "Reducing the Risk from Accidents relating to Nuclear Weapons" was okayed by both sides, and will be signed shortly.

3. All fishermen and prisoners of the other country whose national status stands confirmed and who have completed their sentences, will be released by December 25, 2006.

4. Agreement on the need for an early finalisation of an updated visa agreement between the two countries. Also, the list of shrines under the 1974 Bilateral Protocol on visits to religious shrineswill be expanded.

First Published: Nov 15, 2006 15:57 IST