Pak approaches talks with India with positive frame of mind
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Pak approaches talks with India with positive frame of mind

Pakistan said it approached the parleys with a "positive frame of mind" and hoped that India would reciprocate in the same manner.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2004 11:16 IST

On the eve of the three-day talks between the officials of the two countries to work out modalities for the composite dialogue, Pakistan on Sunday said it approached the parleys with a "positive frame of mind" and hoped that India would reciprocate in the same manner.

Sounding optimistic about the talks beginning on Monday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurishid Mehmood Kasuri said he hoped that both sides would stick to the spirit of the joint statement issued on January 6 after the meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad.

"Pakistan approached the Monday's talks with positive frame of mind and hoped that India would do the same," he said.

Kasuri said there was a great deal of optimism about the outcome of the talks as both Vajpayee and Musharraf demonstrated a "great deal of statesmanship."

The talks would begin here with a two-day meeting between Joint Secretary in External Affairs Ministry Arun Kumar Singh, who arrived in Lahore on Sunday given a warm welcome by Pakistani officials, and Jalil Abbas Jilani, Director for South Asia in the Foreign Office.

After their talks, Foreign Secretary Shashank and his counterpart Riaz Khokhar would hold parleys on Wednesday.

The three-day talks, being resumed after two and half years of gap, would mainly focus on the agenda and the structure of the proposed composite dialogue to resolve all bilateral issues including Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said.

"This is the beginning of the composite dialogue. The two sides will, therefore, focus on the agenda, structure, time frame, and the future direction of the talks. The intent is to kick-start the dialogue process, which has been stalled since Agra," Khan said.

He said Pakistan approached the talks with all sincerity and hope. "We are approaching this process earnestly and sincerely. Our intention is to be constructive. Our hope is that the effort will be result-oriented.

"We hope that India would reciprocate these sentiments. There is a realisation on both sides that war is not an option and that we have to resolve our disputes peacefully. This in itself should be a good beginning," he said.

Declining to go into the details of the issues that would constitute composite dialogue, Khan said the two sides would have an open discussion about what constitute the composite dialogue.

Asked whether the composite dialogue would be on same eight issue agreed to in 1997, Khan said, "Even this would be decided at the talks." The 1997 composite dialogue agenda included peace and security, Kashmir, Siachen, Wullar Barriage, Sir Creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation and cultural exchanges.

When asked whether issues relating to confidence building measures on the nuclear front would be included to expand the composite dialogue, Khan said the issues for talks would be discussed across the table by both the countries.

"They will have to decide whether to reinvent the wheel or go by the experience of talks in 1997 and 98 which later amply reflected at the Agra summit," he said.

Observing that Pakistan attached a great deal of importance to the three-day talks, he said, "to reach this point an arduous effort has been mounted. We hope that this process will help steer away our two nations from tensions and confrontation and towards peaceful settlement of all issues, especially Kashmir which is the key issue.

"We hope that this round augurs well for the two nations and the people of Kashmir."

Khan said the talks would be guided by the statesmanship and spirit shown by Musharraf and Vajpayee in their meeting on January 5.

"On that day the two leaders expressed the confidence that resumption for dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

He said the eyes of the international community were fixed on this process. "Governments and opinion makers from all over the world— from the US, European Union, Chain, Japan, and even from the Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions— have hailed the decisions taken by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee.

"The momentum of these decisions must be maintained. More importantly, ... Pakistan, India and Kashmiris have high expectations from these talks. They want this process to succeed," he said.

First Published: Feb 17, 2004 00:00 IST