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Pakistan team arrives for talks on nuclear CBMs

By Amit Baruah

— Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

The Pakistan delegation, led by Tariq Osman Haider (left), Additional Secretary in the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, Jalil Abbas Jilani, Director-General, South Asia, and Aziz Ahmed Khan (centre), Pakistan High Commissioner to India, arrive at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi on Friday.

NEW DELHI, JUNE. 18. A six-member team from Pakistan, led by Tariq Osman Haider, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, arrived here today for a wide-ranging, two-day dialogue on nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs) from Saturday.

"We are coming with a positive spirit and positive suggestions. We are here for result-oriented talks," Mr. Haider said on arrival at the Indira Gandhi International airport. As responsible nuclear States, both India and Pakistan have a responsibility to their people," he said.

On Pakistan's expectations from the talks, Mr. Haider said they would not be negotiating through the media and hoped that the results of the talks would speak for themselves.

The delegation would call on the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, the National Security Adviser, J.N. Dixit, and the Foreign Secretary, Shashank, after the first session of their talks at Hyderabad House on Saturday morning.

The Indian delegation is led by Sheel Kant Sharma, Additional Secretary (International Organisations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, and will comprise the Joint Secretary (Pakistan), Arun Singh; and representatives from the Department of Atomic Energy and the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

For its part, the Indian side hoped that this would be the first in a series of talks between experts of the two countries on formulating and implementing nuclear CBMs. Sources in the South Block pointed out that the timeframe for the dialogue had held despite the change in government in New Delhi.

They felt that the talks had to be taken forward in a systematic, slow and graduated manner, with the two countries focussing on trying to build on points they had agreed upon. The Indian side would like to hear how the Pakistanis approached their nuclear weapons' capability - in essence, their view of a nuclearised South Asia.

Agenda from Lahore MoU

It was evident that the agenda of the talks would flow from the Lahore Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed to by the Foreign Secretaries in February 1999. "The two sides are fully committed to undertaking national measures to reduce the risks of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons under their respective control. The two sides further undertake to notify each other immediately in the event of any accidental, unauthorised or unexplained incident... the two sides shall identify/establish the appropriate communication mechanism for this purpose," the MoU said.

Asked whether putting in place such a nuclear hotline would form part of the talks' agenda, the sources said this could happen as the dialogue moved forward.

However, they indicated that India would like the issue of early warning systems to be on the agenda of the expert-level talks in due course.

Asked if Pakistan had been informing India in advance about its missile tests as per the Lahore MoU, the sources said they had been doing it for most part — even during the military mobilisation in 2002.

The easier thing to do for the two countries was to pick up commonalities. For Pakistan, it was not possible to give a no-first use (NFU) commitment like India on the use of nuclear weapons while New Delhi could not give its assent to the Pakistani proposal for a strategic restraint regime.

The talks were intended to remove misperceptions each side held about the other. They now had to reach a plateau of understanding and reduce the possibility of nuclear danger in South Asia.

Stating that both sides should take steps to lower the temperature, the sources said India did not accept the proposition that South Asia was a nuclear flashpoint. India's nuclear doctrine was not country specific, they said, adding that it was certainly not directed at Pakistan.

On whether India proposed to raise the issue of A.Q. Khan's nuclear weapons' proliferation exercise in the bilateral talks, the sources replied in the negative, pointing out that it was a matter of international concern.

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