India, Pak will talk Kashmir in special session today
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Foreign Secretaries Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir will have a special session tomorrow, devoted exclusively to Jammu and Kashmir. Peace and security CBMs and J&K have traditionally been discussed in a single session, with an interval in between.
Government sources told The Indian Express that the two sides are expected to announce several cross-LoC CBMs, including a Kargil-Skardu bus, increasing the frequency of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, a banking mechanism to replace the existing barter system, and increasing the number of trading days from two to four every week.
Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters that "Kashmir is the core issue that divides the two countries". "After all, isn't that clear and can't we both agree on that?"
The dialogue has been split into three half-day segments. A session on "peace and security CBMs" took place today, and a session on "promotion of friendly exchanges" will follow the J&K session tomorrow.
The Indian side brought up the issue of terrorism in the first session, reasoning that terrorism "impacts" peace and security. Rao and Bashir met in a restricted format — accompanied by the head of Pakistan desk, Y K Sinha, from the Indian side — for nearly 30 minutes.
MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said the foreign secretaries had had "very cordial discussions, substantive talks and forward-looking".
Sources said the outcomes — which will be announced tomorrow — will include scheduling of "expert group on nuclear CBMs" and "joint working group on cross-LoC trade and travel". Both groups will be mandated to meet before the foreign ministers' meeting in July.
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