NATIONAL

Pak. reacts cautiously to proposals

ISLAMABAD Oct. 22 . Pakistan has reacted cautiously to the 12 confidence building measures (CBMs) unveiled by the Cabinet Committee on Security for improvement of people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan.

Though most of the proposals are the same that were announced by the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, on May 6 in response to the peace initiative of the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Islamabad is clearly surprised at the suggestion from New Delhi for a bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capital of Pak-occupied Kashmir.

It would be very difficult for Pakistan to negate the proposal, as it is a long-standing demand of the Kashmiris on either side of the divide. In fact, they have been asking both India and Pakistan to facilitate an "intra-Kashmiri" dialogue to enable them to decide matters pertaining to their future.

Indications from the Pakistan Foreign Office are that Islamabad is not averse in principle to the proposals mooted by New Delhi though it would like to study in-depth the implications of the bus link to Muzaffarabad as well as other additional communication links that did not exist prior to the deterioration of ties between the two sides in the aftermath of the Indian Parliament attack.

The other aspect, which has not gone unnoticed here, relates to the appointment of the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, as the new interlocutor to hold dialogue with the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). With Syed Ali Shah Geelani heading a breakaway faction, Pakistan sees real danger in the parent Hurriyat agreeing to talk to Mr. Advani.

It is against this backdrop that Pakistan chose to be matter-of-fact in its response to the CBMs and made it a point to complain about the reluctance of India to hold a composite dialogue.

A Foreign Office spokesman here said that the proposals would receive serious consideration and Pakistan's response to any proposal that was substantive and unconditional and genuinely designed to improve relations would always be positive.

The spokesman said: "We are disappointed that while making these proposals, India has simultaneously reiterated its rejection of Pakistan's offer to resume substantive and sustained dialogue to resolve all issues notably the Jammu and Kashmir dispute."

He said Pakistan hoped that India would reconsider its position on the resumption of the composite talks.

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