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Pakistan wants progress on CBMs with India: Sartaj Aziz

03 July, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: Both Pakistan and India, in their first high-level bilateral contact, have announced that they want to 'accelerate' relations, and are now ready to resume the bilateral dialogue, with Adviser to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz saying that Islamabad wants progress on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) with New Delhi.

The Composite Dialogue Process with India has been on hold ever since skirmishes took place on the LoC in January, claiming lives of soldiers from both sides.

Pakistan says that while a meeting between Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh is likely in September in New York, there was the possibility that the two could meet earlier. Dates are also being finalised for the Joint Working Groups under the Joint Commission to meet in July and August.

In a meeting on the sidelines of ASEAN Foreign Minister's meet in Brunei, Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, in their first high-level meeting expressed hope that the bilateral dialogue process between them would be resumed with holding of different meetings in next few months.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Aziz was quoted by PTI as saying, "We have reviewed the various steps in the CBMs and in the composite dialogue that has been going on. We discussed ways of fast tracking them, because this is the part both sides want to accelerate, and this (meeting) is in response to that."

Interestingly, while this welcome development was announced by the Foreign Office here and Indian news agencies in Brunei, it was PTI which carried extensive quotes from the two senior diplomats.

"We have agreed for different groups to meet in the next two to three months. People-to-people contact, visa relaxation regime has already been agreed. Trade meetings will also take place. There are number of steps being taken up and we hope that the two prime ministers can meet hopefully on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September, if not earlier. We are providing great political impetus to this dialogue process," Aziz added.

Salman Khurshid went a step further to say, "We are looking for dates for (meetings of the) Joint Working Groups under the Joint Commission in July and August."

PTI quoted Khurshid saying that Manmohan Singh has responded 'warmly' to an invitation to visit Pakistan.

"Most important is that there is political will on both sides to take these ties forward. This is important for the relationship and for finding resolution to contentious issues which arise from time to time. First of all, there is a need to take people-to-people contacts forward and to strengthen our institutional contacts," Khurshid added.

Asked about the 26/11 trial in Pakistan, Khurshid said, "This is what we have discussed, and as I have told you. It is time now to move forward".

Spokesman at the Foreign Office said that the meeting was held in a warm and cordial atmosphere and discussions focused on building better relations between the two countries.

India has expressed its desire to engage with Pakistan on all issues and work improving bilateral relations.

Pakistan reiterated that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was giving priority at improved relations with India by picking up the threads from the Lahore process of 1999.

"In order to ensure lasting peace and security in the region it was necessary to discuss all outstanding issues and confidence building proposals", the spokesman quoted Aziz as saying.

Trade and economic cooperation between the two countries could act as a catalyst and raise the confidence level on both sides that would allow a sustained peace process.

In this regard, the Adviser appreciated the recent visit of the Indian energy mission to Pakistan in which trade in electricity and gas was discussed. Both ministers discussed steps that were further needed in this regard. They also agreed that the Pakistan-India Joint Business Council meeting which had just concluded its session in Islamabad on 29th June was another important mechanism that would help in taking the process forward.

Referring to the positive outcome of the ARF meeting, both leaders were of the view that regional cooperation would give an impetus to the economic development and prosperity of South and South-East Asia. Decisions taken at the ARF should be translated into action soon.

APP adds from Brunei Darussalam: Meanwhile, Sartaj Aziz held a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the 20th Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) here.

The main focus of discussion between the two sides was bilateral cooperation in the post 2014 period, said Foreign Office spokesman.

Giving further details, the spokesman said, the adviser emphasised the need for holding the next round of Strategic Dialogue at ministerial level between the two countries.

The adviser to the PM also highlighted that the main focus of the foreign policy of the newly elected government will be economic revival and socio-economic development.

The two sides must make efforts to increase trade from the current level of US$5 billion to $10 billion in the next five years.

The adviser also stressed the need for greater market access to Pakistani exports to the United States.

Secretary John Kerry appreciated new government's focus on the economy and said he accepted in that context the importance of greater market access for Pakistan's exports to the USA.

He emphasized that improved law and order was also necessary for economic revival and larger foreign investment.

Online adds: Sartaj Aziz also met with Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi and discussed matters related to bilateral issues and visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to China this week.

The two sides expressed satisfaction at the state of bilateral relations, which received impetus during the visit of Premier Li Keqiang to Pakistan in May and would be reinforced with the visit of Nawaz Sharif to China this week. The visit will further reinforce the warmth, closeness and strategic partnership between the two friendly neighbours.

End.

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