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Indian offer of Confidence Building Measures to Pakistan, October 22, 2003

On October 22, 2003, India offered Pakistan certain Confidence Building Measures. These decisions were arrived at after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met in New Delhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. These measures were later announced at a press briefing by the External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Following is the transcript of the press conference.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER: Friends, good afternoon. As you are aware, the Cabinet Committee on Security met this morning. Among other things, we discussed the progress of the Prime Minister’s peace initiative with Pakistan. After the discussion, the Cabinet Committee has approved a number of new steps, which we have already conveyed to Pakistan. The Pakistan High Commissioner was asked to meet the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. He met the Foreign Secretary at 3:15 p.m. What I am going to tell you is something that has already been conveyed to the High Commissioner to the Government of Pakistan. We have made a number of suggestions to Pakistan.

The first is, the next round of the technical level discussion for resumption of civil aviation. You are aware that we could not reach an agreement in the first round, which was held in Islamabad. That meeting ended with the promise that the two sides will meet again. We propose to hold these talks once again, and the Director-General Civil Aviation will get in touch with his Pakistani counterpart to fix the dates for this meeting.

India is keen, though it is not a sign of our weakness mind you, that civil aviation links should be restored along with overflights, overflying rights over the air space of each country. We are keen because we feel that it is in the interest of the people of India and Pakistan that this should happen. I would also like to make it absolutely clear that there is no question of India giving any guarantees to Pakistan. So, this is the first step, resumption of talks for civil aviation.

The second is, we have offered to Pakistan to hold technical level discussions for the resumption of rail link. At the same time it has also been conveyed to Pakistan that the resumption of rail link will be undertaken after the successful completion of the technical level talks with regard to civil aviation.

The third is, we have decided to resume bilateral sporting encounters. This includes cricket also.

Fourth, in order to further benefit the people in both the countries, we propose the holding of visa camps by the respective High Commission in different cities through a mutually agreed arrangement for the cities as well as the frequency of such camps. Details in this regard can be worked out through the diplomatic channels.

Five, senior citizens – which means persons of 65 years of age and above – would henceforth be permitted to cross Wagah checkpoint on foot. At the moment our policy is restricted to crossings by groups. We are extending this facility to individuals but restricting it to senior citizens to begin with. Anyone who travels by bus is free to cross.

We have also proposed to increase the capacity of Delhi-Lahore-Delhi bus service by running more buses in convoys on the already agreed days. The Delhi Transport Corporation, which I happened to chair at one time, would follow up on this with the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation.

We have proposed establishment of links between the Coast Guards of the two countries. Such links, we have suggested, could be on the pattern of the existing link between the DGMOs (Directors General of Military Operations), and could be established between their respective headquarters. Flag meetings could also be held at sea before and after the fishing season. Details could initially be tied up through diplomatic channels and subsequently followed up by the Indian Coast Guards and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency.

We have proposed to Pakistan the non-arrest by either side of fishermen of the other country within a certain band on the sea. Details of the band on the sea again could be worked out through diplomatic channels.

Government of India would provide free medical treatment to a second batch of 20 children from Pakistan. You are aware of the fact that after baby Noor’s case we had announced that we would make this facility available to 20 children from Pakistan which will include medical treatment in India. Sixteen children have come to India. They have undergone treatment. They have either gone back or have undertaken treatment and recuperating, or waiting for treatment. Our Mission in Islamabad informs us that they have received a very large number of applications. Therefore, we have decided that we make 20 more slots available under this category.

After all these steps are taken and the work of the Missions expands, we will be ready to look at further accretion to the strength of the two Missions - in Islamabad and Delhi. As you are aware, we have recently suggested increasing the strength by eight, which Pakistan has accepted. We are in the process of implementing it. We are prepared to increase it by another number to be mutually agreed upon once, as I said, as a result of all these steps the work increases.

We propose to go beyond the transportation links by air, road and rail. Therefore, we have proposed to Pakistan that we could consider a ferry service between Mumbai and Karachi. We will await the response of Pakistan.

Finally, but very importantly, we have proposed to Pakistan the start of two new bus services – one between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, and the other either a bus or rail link between Khokrapar and Munabao, in Sindh and Rajasthan.

These are the steps which have been decided upon by the Cabinet Committee on Security and conveyed to Pakistan. We will await their response.

Our war against terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism, will continue. There will be no let up in dealing with terrorists who dare to infiltrate into India.

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, October 23, 2003.





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