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Pak pause on ‘robust’ reply

Oct. 27: Pakistan wants to give a “robust and constructive response” to India’s 12-point offer but could not do so today as President Pervez Musharraf has not yet cleared the package.

“We will not run down the proposals in line with our policy to promote a composite dialogue for settlement of all outstanding disputes, including Kashmir,” Pakistan foreign office spokesman Masood Khan said.

Media reports and a few officials had said earlier that foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar would formally unveil Islamabad’s response today. The officials later clarified that the counter-proposals were awaiting the President’s clearance.

Tit-for-tat rhetoric then took the place of the reciprocal package at the keenly-watched press briefing. Khan used the opportunity to respond to Indian defence minister George Fernandes’ reference during a television interview to two options — either sit across the table or go to the battlefield.

“It appeared as a classic game of good cop, bad cop, which India might want to play with a gun in one hand and a piece of paper in the other that contained 12 proposals and asking for negotiations on a gun point,” Khan said.

He iterated Pakistan’s disappointment over Indian rejection of its proposal for a composite dialogue. “It is difficult to make real progress without addressing the key issue — Kashmir,” he said.

Khan questioned the seriousness of the Indian proposal for a Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service. “It does not appear to be a serious move, particularly in view of incessant firing on civilian population from across the Line of Control, which killed nine people in last few days.”

He said that even if a bus link between the two cities was established, it would have to be regulated in accordance with international norms because of the disputed status of Kashmir.

Aviation talks

Pakistan said it would consider the two sets of dates in November proposed by India for the next round of talks to restore civil aviation links. India had proposed during the day talks on November 3 and 4 or on November 10 and 11 in New Delhi.

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