The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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LoC five-spot plan to unite Kashmiris

Islamabad, Dec. 28: India has proposed five spots along the Line of Control and the international border where members of divided families could meet, in a move to bring the people of the two Kashmirs together.

Kashmiris on either side of the border could meet at Mendhar, Punj, Uri and Tangdhar along the LoC and Suchetgarh on the international border. The meetings will take place on specified days under the joint supervision of Indian and Pakistan security forces.

Foreign secretary Shyam Saran made this proposal to his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokhar this morning when they met to discuss the Kashmir problem. The two-day foreign secretary-level talks concluded here today.

India's proposal is a smart move. Delhi has stressed it is committed to address the Kashmir problem seriously, but the complex nature of the problem makes it impossible to look for any quick fixes. It says the only option in the interim is to take steps that are 'people-oriented' and will help in reducing their suffering.

If Pakistan rejects the proposal, India can make it appear as if Islamabad is not keen to provide Kashmiris any relief despite its public posturing. If it accepts the suggestion, it would help create a soft-border and transform the LoC from a barrier to a bridge between the two Kashmirs.

Both sides are keen to get the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus on the road quickly, but Saran would not unequivocally say if Delhi was willing to give up its insistence on passports being the only valid document for passengers. 'Our stand will be flexible and practical,' he said.

The meeting ended on a positive note with the neighbours agreeing to a mechanism that will lessen the harassment of fishermen and civilian prisoners. Saran and Khokhar also agreed to continue with the composite dialogue and accepted a tentative set of dates that ensures the two sides will remain engaged until next July. The foreign secretaries will meet in Delhi in August to review the progress of talks.

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