Pakistan and India are likely to announce new confidence building measures (CBMs) related to the longstanding Kashmir dispute when foreign ministers of the nuclear-armed neighbours meet in New Delhi this week.
The CBMs include increase in the number of trading points as well as trading days – from the existing two to four – across the Line of Control (LoC), launch of a new bus service between Kargil and Skardu and also increasing the frequency of a bus link between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar, a Foreign Office official told The Express Tribune.
The agreement on the new CBMs was finalised at the recently held meeting of the Pak-India Joint Working Group in New Delhi and is part of efforts by the two countries to facilitate trade and travel on both sides of the LoC.
The official said the foreign secretaries, who are due to meet on July 26 – a day before the ministerial-level talks between the two countries – will further discuss the issue. “The new CBMs will be placed before the two foreign ministers and they may announce the final agreement at the end of talks,” said the official, who requested not to be named.
Presently, trade is allowed between Muzaffarabad-Uri and Poonch-Rawalakot. However, according to Indian media, New Delhi has proposed three additional trading routes including Nauseri-Tithwal, Hajipur-Uri and Tattapani-Mendhar.
Traders from both sides of the LoC have been demanding an increase in the number of trade days from two to four, resumption of telecommunication links between the Indian and Pakistani administered parts of Kashmir and inclusion of more items from both sides as part of the trade activity.
Foreign Office officials said the two countries are trying to address these issues in order to facilitate traders from both sides of the LoC.
Meanwhile, Pakistan and India reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate in the probe into the November 2008 Mumbai attacks at a meeting Saturday between Interior Minister Rehman Malik and his Indian counterpart P Chidambaram on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation security meet.
The two leaders issued a joint statement after their meeting ‘held in a cordial atmosphere’.
“The interior minister of Pakistan affirmed that his ministry was working toward an early visit of a judicial commission from Pakistan to India. He expressed hope that the visit would take place at an early date,” the joint statement said. The probe panel from Pakistan will record statements of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate
RV Sawant Waghule and investigating officer Ramesh Mahale.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2011.