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India, Pakistan Agree on 13 Proposals

Pledging to continue serious and sustained dialogue to find peaceful settlement of Kashmir and other bilateral issues, India and Pakistan agreed Wednesday to discuss modalities for disengagement and re-deployment of troops in Siachen and decided to launch a new tourist visa.

Setting a positive tone for the maiden meeting later this month between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly session, the two sides agreed on 13 proposals aimed at confidence building, promotion of friendly exchanges and enhancing trade and economic cooperation, the Press Trust of India reported.

A joint statement issued on the two-day talks between Indian External Affairs Ministers K. Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid M. Kasuri in New Delhi said the two sides would have meeting on all issues for starting Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service.

The two sides decided to set up a mechanism to deal with the issue of civilian prisoners and fishermen effectively and speedily.

Giving details of the statement, external affairs ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said the foreign ministers expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far and positively assessed the developments in bilateral relations over the past year.

The two ministers reiterated the confidence that the composite dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides.

They agreed to continue with the serious and sustained dialogue to find a peaceful negotiated final settlement while expressing their determination to take the process forward.

With the addition of the new category of tourist visa, Indian and Pakistani tourists will be able to travel across the border.

Under the prevailing system, special group tours are permitted for visiting religious shrines and people given visas to visit relatives across the border. As a result, tourists often had to invent relatives to visit each other's country.

On Siachen, it was agreed that the outcome of the August 2004 meeting of defense secretaries would be implemented.

New Delhi and Islamabad had on Aug. 6 agreed to discuss modalities for disengagement and redeployment of troops in Siachen and hold further discussions on them.

Defense secretaries are expected to meet again on the Siachen issue.

The statement, released shortly before Kasuri left for Islamabad at the end of his five-day visit, said the two sides agreed to hold expert level meetings on conventional and nuclear Confidence Building Measures. Under this, they will also discuss draft agreement on advance notification of missile tests.

The warming of relations between India and Pakistan that began at the January summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation has produced some results.

Ever since the division of the sub-continent in 1947, when Britain dismantled its Indian empire, India and Pakistan have been arch rivals. The neighbors have in recent years enhanced their relations, but differences continue to persist over Kashmir.

(Xinhua News Agency September 9, 2004)

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