Incrementally inching towards dismantling six decades of trust deficit, India and Pakistan on Friday agreed to build a constituency for peace at home through cessation of hostile propaganda and strengthening cooperation on counter-terrorism, besides narrowing divergences and building convergences on Jammu and Kashmir.

Mindful of the historical baggage and the internal political dynamics of both countries, all aspects of mutual concern — from Jammu and Kashmir to the Mumbai terror attack and the Samjhauta Express blasts — were discussed at the two-day engagement here between the Foreign Secretaries.

Joint news conference

And, in a surprising development, the Foreign Secretaries decided to jointly address a news conference after first announcing separate briefings. The news conference was in addition to a joint statement and, according to Indian officials, a signal that the usually squabbling countries can face the world together.

“It's not a reprimand”

Though Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao did not mince words, in her opening remarks, she said that “the ideology of military conflict should have no place in the paradigm of our relationship of the 21st Century” and should be replaced with a “vocabulary of peace,” Indian officials maintained this was not a reprimand. “We have resurrected this process; let us not run this aground by rushing to conclusions.”

The need to remove the shadow of the gun was a recurrent line that Ms. Rao took but without finger-pointing.

Stress on absence of gun

To a question on the discussions on Jammu and Kashmir, she said peace and reconciliation had to be built step by step and “only in the absence of the gun can we discuss such issues.”

On specific cross-Line of Control (LoC) confidence-building measures (CBMs), the working group will meet next month to strengthen and streamline trade and travel arrangements and propose modalities for additional measures.

The group will look at the demand for more trading days, additional routes, reducing red tape, and specifying the 21 items of trade to ensure that only goods made in Jammu and Kashmir are traded.

Pakistan proposals

Similarly, separate expert-level meetings on nuclear and conventional CBMs will be convened to discuss the existing arrangements and consider additional measures that are mutually agreeable.

Pakistan apparently had a slew of proposals, including exchange of experience in civil nuclear energy, particularly in the light of the leakage caused in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan after the devastating earthquake earlier this year.

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