Pakistan is expected to seek the firming up of confidence-building measures during the upcoming Foreign Secretary-level talks with India to pave the way for progress in addressing long-standing issues like Kashmir, diplomatic sources said on Thursday.
Senior Pakistani officials have broadly classified the issues to be raised during the meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries in Islamabad on June 24 as outstanding issues like the Kashmir issue, humanitarian matters like the release of prisoners and fishermen, terrorism and trade and commerce, the diplomatic sources told PTI.
The Pakistani side will press for strengthening of confidence-building measures in these areas so that the two sides can ultimately make headway in addressing issues that have bedevilled relations for many decades, the sources said.
There are indications that the Pakistani side could ask for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the release of political prisoners to improve the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir when Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir meets his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao.
The sources also said there is a realisation at the highest levels of the Foreign Office of the need to lower tensions in the region while at the same time preventing any further deterioration of bilateral relations.
In this regard, the two sides are expected to discuss ways to improve cooperation in countering terrorism, the sources added.
There is a feeling in the Pakistani leadership that there is a need to upgrade the existing Joint Anti—Terrorism Mechanism, which was set up in 2006.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani spoke of the need to reactivate the JATM earlier this month and Pakistani officials now believe intelligence agencies should be represented in this body, the sources said.
However, the Foreign Office appears to be undecided on how to respond to India’s call for firm action against anti-India groups like LeT and JeM and militant leaders like LeT founder and JuD chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.
Despite several dossiers provided by India on Saeed, Pakistani leaders like Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Interior Minister Rehman Malik have contended there isn’t enough evidence to act against the JuD chief.
In the run-up to the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries, the government has been given the go-ahead by parliament’s standing committee on national security to take “difficult decisions” to normalise ties with India, the Dawn newspaper reported today.
The advice from the parliamentary panel was part of eight recommendations made by it for the forthcoming meetings of the Foreign Secretaries, Interior Ministers and Foreign Ministers.
The Interior Ministers will meet on the sidelines of a SAARC interior ministers meeting in Islamabad on June 26 while a meeting of Foreign Ministers is slated for July 15.
The standing committee on national security said tough decisions are necessitated due to the changing global scenario.
However, it said all such decisions should be in conformity with Pakistan’s long—standing stance on issues like Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and sharing of river waters.
The committee asked the Foreign Office to rethink policies for relations with India and to dovetail them with Pakistan’s long-term strategic objectives.
Mr. Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, during their meeting on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in April, tasked the Foreign Secretaries to find ways to bridge the trust deficit between the two countries and to finalise the agenda for the meeting of the Foreign Ministers.
Foreign Minister Qureshi on Wednesday chaired an inter-ministerial meeting at the Foreign Office to prepare for the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries.
The meeting was also attended by representatives of the military establishment, including the Inter-Services Intelligence.