Pakistan and India are considering a new proposal to remove weapons from the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed region of Kashmir, in a development that may prove crucial for a resolution of the longstanding issue.
The suggestion is part of several other proposals being discussed at the two-day talks in Islamabad between senior officials from the two sides on conventional and nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs).
The parleys, part of the peace process resumed earlier this year, opened on Monday with the nuclear-armed neighbours pushing for new measures to improve ties.
A senior foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune that Pakistan has put forward new CBMs including the redeployment of heavy weaponry along the LoC, an agreement on prevention of incidents at sea and the return of citizens who inadvertently cross the border.
“We (Pakistan) have proposed to redeploy artillery and mortar 30 kilometres away from the LoC,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
However, he added that discussions on the proposal were in their initial stages and no major breakthrough is expected during the ongoing round of talks.
The fresh CBM is being seen as an effort by the two sides to demilitarise the disputed Himalayan region, where in the past the two sides often exchanged fire, killing hundreds across the LoC.
However, such incidents are now a rarity because of the ceasefire the two countries agreed to in 2003 at the LoC.
On the first-day of talks, officials from the two sides reviewed existing CBMs including the ceasefire at the LoC and new proposals in a bid to further reduce the trust-deficit between the two countries.
The officials are also expected to discuss nuclear CBMs on Tuesday (today) such as expanding the existing agreement on advance notification on ballistic missiles, by also including cruise missile tests.
The other nuclear CBM that is likely to be taken up for discussion is a cooperative arrangement between the two countries for dealing with a Fukushima-like crisis, which occurred a few months back in Japan after a devastating earthquake.
India is also expected to urge Pakistan to agree on ‘a no-first-nuclear-use commitment,’ though Islamabad is unlikely to accept it at this stage.
The meeting is the first set of formal discussions following talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani at the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit held in the Maldives two months ago.
This is also the first round of talks to be held by the Joint Working Group on nuclear and conventional CBMs in four years. The last time that expert-level talks on the subject had taken place was in New Delhi in October 2007.
Islamabad and New Delhi are holding these vital talks on conventional and nuclear CBMs just a few days before the exchange of lists of their nuclear installations and facilities on January 1 under the “Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities”.
The nuclear neighbours signed this agreement on December 31, 1988 and both countries exchange their lists every year on January 1.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2011.