August 10, 2001
The Foreign Secretary of India, Smt. Chokila Iyer, had a bilateral meeting with the Pakistan Foreign Secretary H. E. Mr. Inam Ul Haq on the sidelines of the Third Special Session of the SAARC Standing Committee of Foreign Secretaries in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
During this meeting, the Indian Foreign Secretary had a useful exchange of views with the Pakistan Foreign Secretary on various aspects of the bilateral relationship, the importance of continuing the dialogue process initiated by the Indian Prime Minister's invitation to President Musharraf and the Agra Summit, as well as impediments in the path of improvement of relations.
The Indian Foreign Secretary reiterated the acceptance by the Indian Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister of invitations to visit Pakistan. Dates would be fixed subsequently.
She conveyed to the Pakistan Foreign Secretary that India was proceeding with implementation of the CBMs announced on July 4, 6 and 9. India was awaiting responses from Pakistan to the proposal for meeting of the DGMOs as well as the expert level discussion on nuclear CBMs. There should be follow up to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two Foreign Secretaries at Lahore, in February, 1999. This MoU had also provided for technical details of various measures to be worked out by the experts of the two sides.
The Indian Foreign Secretary also brought up the question of early release of civilian prisoners, avoidance of arrest of fishermen who inadvertently transgress and the issue of the 54 Indian POWs.
She also reiterated the importance that India attaches to improving relations with Pakistan, which would also be to the benefit of the peoples of the two countries. For this, it would be necessary to observe and implement the provisions of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration. Cross-border terrorism violates both these Agreements as well as accepted norms of international conduct. It is important for us to build trust and confidence so that a climate is created conducive to the resolution of our differences, and to enable us even more effectively to confront the common challenges of poverty eradication and development.
The Indian Foreign Secretary also conveyed that India had sought, in Agra, to incorporate in a joint document, the structure of a future dialogue process on all issues, including meetings at official, ministerial and summit levels. We also made proposals for addressing the issue of Peace and Security - including nuclear and conventional CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir and terrorism; and all other issues from the Composite Dialogue. Eventually, however, the quest for a joint document had to be abandoned because of what was perceived by our leadership and people as an unacceptable and untenable fixation on the Jammu & Kashmir issue, a reluctance to address cross-border terrorism, and a negative approach indicated towards the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration.
There has been a spurt of violence in Jammu & Kashmir following the Agra Summit. These have created extremely negative sentiments both at the public and political level.
We cannot accept that the insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir, with its foreign mercenaries and generous assistance from abroad, is anything but cross-border terrorism. The daily killing of innocent men, women and children can simply not be glorified as "Jehad", or as any kind of political movement. Soon after the Agra Summit had concluded, pilgrims on their way to the holy shrine of Amarnath were killed. Thereafter, further massacres of members of one community occurred at the hands of terrorists.
We reject any suggestion that J&K is the 'core' issue, or 'central' to the normalization of India-Pakistan relations. As PM and EAM have indicated on various occasions, we must make efforts to improve relations, build trust and confidence so that a climate is created conducive to resolution of the issue.
Ultimately, it would be for Pakistan to choose the kind of relationship it would like to have with India. On our part, we remain both committed and willing to adopt a positive approach in relations with Pakistan.