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Nuke & narcotics in pact push

Islamabad, Feb. 16: Political leaders in India and Pakistan need to find ways to enhance trust and cooperation between the two countries despite the differences between them, external affairs minister K. Natwar Singh concluded at the end of his meeting with Pakistani leaders here.

The differences between the two countries, Singh felt, were normal 'given the history and complexity of our relationship'. But these needed to be addressed productively.

His bilateral visit to Pakistan, the external affairs minister claimed, had reinforced his 'determination to continue working for expanding cooperation and understanding between our two countries'.

Singh's counterpart Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri also noted 'with satisfaction the overall improvements in atmospherics between the two countries'. The positive steps being taken by the two sides, he said, augured well for the future of bilateral ties.

Singh announced a slew of measures to increase confidence between the two countries. Besides enhanced transport links, he said the officials of the two sides had been instructed that by July this year, the following agreements had to be finalised: on pre-notification of missile tests, memorandum of understanding between Indian Coastguards and Pakistan's Maritime Security Agency and an MoU between the two narcotics control authorities.

India and Pakistan, he said, had also decided to initiate discussions on reducing the risk of nuclear accidents or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons and prevention of incidents at sea.

The two sides have also agreed to consider further measures to alleviate the suffering of civilian prisoners and apprehended fishermen.

Pakistan's foreign minister revealed that Delhi has agreed to lease a government-owned building and a plot of land in Mumbai for the simultaneous opening of Pakistan's consulate in Mumbai and India's consulate in Karachi.

Kasuri said the issues of Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, peace and security as well as the Baglihar and Kishenganga projects were discussed.

The two countries, it was evident, have also decided to upgrade their trade and economic links. Not only has India decided to examine the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline but also ways to improve economic ties.

A joint study group on trade and economic cooperation at the level of commerce secretaries is scheduled to meet on February 22 and 23 in Delhi.

'There is a general acceptance of the many complementarities between India and Pakistan. In not realising their benefits, both are losing out,' foreign secretary Shyam Saran said after the meeting between the two ministers.

Outlining the Indian strategy for negotiating the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, Saran said Delhi and Tehran were discussing ways of bringing the gas from Iran to a point on the India-Pakistan border. 'Perhaps, an overarching tripartite agreement may be needed to achieve this.'

Saran argued that enhancing transport links were essential for promoting trade as also people-to-people contact.

A number of confidence-building measures to this end had been envisaged. 'The Indian high commission in Islamabad is issuing 10,000 visas per month,' the foreign secretary said, suggesting that this was not the kind of activity that would take place in any other Indian mission.

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