Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: Indian and Pakistani officials are said to have arrived at a “number of decisions” on new and existing Kashmir-specific confidence building measures, including a proposed triple-entry permit for cross-Line of Control travel, at the talks held here on Friday.

“They have arrived at a number of decisions, all related to the modalities for implementing what was decided by the [Indian and Pakistani] Foreign Ministers at their May 21 meeting,” said an official.

The two sides are said to have discussed the introduction of a triple-entry permit for cross-LoC travel, simplification of the procedures for getting the permit which at present takes at least two years, and an increase in the frequency of the two bus services across the LoC.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had decided at their talks here that the frequency of the two cross-LoC bus services–Srinagar-Muzaffarabad, and Poonch-Rawalakot – should be weekly instead of fortnightly, and that other steps should be taken to increase and improve intra-Kashmir travel.

They had also agreed that the modalities for a cross-LoC trade and truck service should be finalised at the earliest.

Officials, who participated in the talks, refused to divulge the decisions taken at the meeting, saying these would be forwarded to the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, who are likely to announce them after their meeting in New Delhi on Monday.

This was the first meeting between the two sides after India alleged that Pakistan’s ISI was behind the suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

But officials who were in the talks said neither side brought up the issue. “This is not the forum for that,” said one official.

A joint statement said Friday’s talks were held “in a cordial and constructive atmosphere.”

Pakistan to buy CNG buses from India

Pakistan has allowed the import of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses from India under its trade policy for 2008-09.

The import of CNG buses has been allowed along with that of 135 other items that have been added to the positive list for imports from India in the policy announced on Friday by Commerce Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar.

With this, the number of items that the government permits for import from India goes up to nearly 2,000.

Pakistan reportedly has plans to import 8,000 CNG buses for public transport in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Pakistan’s official imports with India are based entirely on a restrictive positive list rather than the more conventional negative list that most trading countries use.

No imports are allowed other than the items on the positive list.

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