| Shyam Saran (top) in Islamabad on Thursday. (Reuters)
Islamabad, Sept. 1: India today told Pakistan that continued cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in the country can hobble the peace process.
“Our ability to take the peace process forward is linked to the atmosphere being free of terrorism. Terrorism and violence cannot go hand in hand with peace,” foreign secretary Shyam Saran said.
He said India has decided to talk to Hurriyat leaders though they are not elected representatives because it felt that they, too, wanted to contribute to the peace process.
Saran didn’t mince words when asked to comment on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Let’s not talk about human rights, because if we engage in it then we will also have to discuss the human rights in the parts of Kashmir held by Pakistan,” he said.
But he made it clear that India is committed to peace with Pakistan and to finding a final solution to the Kashmir dispute that is acceptable to the governments and the people of India and Pakistan.
Earlier, during a meeting with his Pakistani opposite number Riaz Mohammed Khan, Saran agreed to continue with the “composite dialogue” process without tailoring the existing format.
The two sides have decided to enter into the third round of talks by the end of the year and to revive the joint commission after 16 years.
There had earlier been a suggestion to look at a new format for the talks. But today both sides made it clear that they were happy with the current format ' and in no mood to stop their negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.
The preliminary session of the joint commission is expected to begin when external affairs minister K. Natwar Singh visits Islamabad in early October to meet Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri.
Encouraged by the popularity of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, the two countries today agreed to increase the frequency of the trips, helping bring Kashmiris from the two sides even closer. Extending the same policy to other regions of India and Pakistan separated by the border, several other bus services have also been agreed on. They include Poonch-Rawalkot, Kargil-Skardu, Amritsar-Lahore and Lahore-Sirhind (in Punjab).
The decisions came at a meeting between the two foreign secretaries to review the progress made during the recently held second round of the composite dialogue.
The officials also discussed each other’s prisoners and Pakistan’s decision to allow consular access to Sarabjit Singh. But Saran made it clear that the talks were about not just one “individual” but all the Indians and Pakistanis in each other’s jails.
The two sides have agreed to release everyone who has completed their sentence as well as those whose nationalities have been established.