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PM offers Pak aid, not army retreat

Dhaka, Nov. 12: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today ruled out any demilitarisation or redeployment of the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir as a way of taking the Indo-Pak peace process forward till terrorism, infiltration attempts and violence came to an end.

However, at the meeting with his Pakistan counterpart Shaukat Aziz, he offered to consider providing further humanitarian relief, if needed, to the earthquake-affected in Pakistan.

Humanitarian assistance “Yes” but compromise on terrorism “No” was the message the Prime Minister delivered to Aziz.

As this was the first meeting between the two after a devastating earthquake hit Pakistan and India, they used the opportunity to exchange views on the aftermath of the tragedy. Aziz expressed the “sincere thanks” of the people of Pakistan to India for its assistance and for showing “solidarity” with them.

Singh pointed out that India had promised an additional $25 million at the Geneva Conference for earthquake relief in Pakistan and assured Aziz that Indian representatives would be present at the meeting called by Pakistan on November 19 to assess further contributions required for relief. India, he said, was willing to send more relief to Pakistan, if needed.

Briefing the media on the bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Saarc summit, foreign secretary Shyam Saran said both the leaders reviewed the cooperation in the aftermath of the earthquake and noted with approval the opening of three crossing points on the Line of Control in Kashmir, while two more were in the offing.

The two leaders recognised the need to “hasten the process” of granting permission to people to use these crossing points. Saran said the same procedure as the one used for the Srinagar to Muzaffarabad bus service was being followed. “The attempt is to bring the time taken in processing applications to within 10 days.”

Although the issue of international aid agencies using the LoC crossing points to take relief across had not come up at the bilateral meeting, Saran said: “Should such a request come, we will look at it positively.” On an ad-hoc basis, Delhi has been allowing third country relief consignments to go across Wagah.

Despite showing flexibility in assisting the earthquake-affected, Singh rejected the Pakistani suggestion of taking the peace process forward through demilitarisation of Jammu and Kashmir.

He told Aziz it was imperative that the peace process was not deflected by terrorist incidents, infiltration attempts and violence.

The Pakistan Prime Minister responded, according to Saran, by claiming that his country was opposed to any form of terrorism and assured that Pakistan would not allow terrorism to take place from its territory. Aziz, in fact, expressed Islamabad’s willingness to cooperate with India on combating terrorism.

However, no modalities for such cooperation were discussed as Saran said: “Let us see how we can take this forward.”

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