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Glimmer in fireworks

New Delhi, Oct. 30: After all the cut and thrust between India and Pakistan, with a flurry of proposals and counter-proposals made mainly to needle each other, some small but positive steps have emerged.

Foreign office spokesperson Navtej Sarna signalled progress on restoring sporting ties, allowing senior citizens to walk through Wagah without fuss, establishing links between Indian Coast Guards and Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency, discussing resumption of air links and technical talks on restarting Samjhauta Express.

Sarna said India would work out in a month the method of release of fishermen lodged in each other’s jails, though he added that Delhi would have been happier devising a plan to ensure straying fisherfolk are not arrested by either side. India also welcomed Pakistan’s offer of medical treatment to 40 Indian children.

Apart from these small signs of hope, there is little reason for optimism. India has stuck to its step-by-step approach, refusing to give in to Pakistan’s pressure to pick up the threads of the composite dialogue.

Delhi iterated that serious dialogue can take place only when Pakistan ends cross-border terrorism. “We remain committed to a dialogue process based on the premise that sustained dialogue requires an end to cross-border infiltration and terrorism,” Sarna said.

India hit back at Pakistan for referring to Kashmir as “disputed” territory and for suggesting that UN officials be deployed on the border to check travel papers of those using the proposed Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus route.

“Our offer for a bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad was motivated by humanitarian considerations,” Sarna said.

India rejected the offer of 100 scholarships for Kashmiris to study in Pakistan.

India said it was “amused” at Pakistan’s concern for women allegedly raped by Indian security forces or men disabled by them.

“If Pakistan’s concerns are really sincere, it should take immediate steps to end infiltration, dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism, and offer compensation to those affected by terrorism it has sponsored.”

Its references to alleged repression in Jammu and Kashmir are obviously only a ploy for its failed attempt to camouflage its sponsorship and support for terrorism.”

“Jammu and Kashmir is not a disputed territory,” Sarna said. “The only issue that remains to be resolved for a final settlement is the question of Pakistan’s illegal occupation of a portion of the state,” Sarna added for good measure.

Pakistan’s proposal for increasing the size of the respective missions was met with rejection. India argued that the size of the mission could grow with requirement, as the two sides engage more and more with each other.

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