India and Pakistan decided on Thursday to continue the composite dialogue process and sign an agreement on pre-notification of ballistic missile tests at the foreign minister-level meeting in Islamabad early October.
"Both sides agree on the integrity of the composite dialogue....the third round of the composite dialogue will take place and hopefully, it will start by the end of this year," Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan said at a press conference after wide-ranging talks with his visiting Indian counterpart Shyam Saran.
The accord on pre-notification of ballistic missile tests will be signed when External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh meets his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid M Kasuri in Islamabad from October 3-5 this year, he said.
During their two-day talks, Saran and Khan are also expected to set the agenda for the New York meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf on September 14.
The 2 countries may also consider a changed format to carry forward the process to address all outstanding issues. Besides reviewing the progress made on key issues, they will also take stock of the relationship and outline a course to move forward the dialogue process.
Observing that the "core issue" of Jammu and Kashmir was discussed during the meeting, Khan said "the subject of Kashmir will be on top of the agenda" when President Pervez Musharraf meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York on September 14 on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly session.
The foreign secretary-level talks, earlier slated to be held on the eve of the parleys between the foreign ministers in Islamabad in October, was advanced because of this, he added..
Asked about Prime Minister Singh's decision to meet the Hurriyat leaders, he said, "we have always maintained that Kashmiri leadership should be involved with the peace process."
Khan said when the Hurriyat leaders had visited Pakistan, "we welcomed them". He recalled that they had held discussions with the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and others.
"So, the Hurriyat leadership, whom we recognise as the representatives of Kashmiri people should be associated with the peace process. Here, there are three parties -- Pakistan, India and the Kashmiri people. So, this is a positive development that they (Hurriyat) will also be meeting the Indian leadership," Khan said.
He said a Joint Statement will be issued at the end of the talks on Friday.
To a question, he said the issue of Sarabjit Singh, sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in the bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan in 1990, did come up. "There was a mention...we have provided consular access."
Asked about the mandate of the joint commission, he said "it will be revived" in pursuance to the decision taken by Musharraf and Singh when they met in New Delhi in April this year.
The last meeting of the joint commission was held in 1989. At that time, it had 4 sub-commissions.
"We will have to see what kind of format it should have," Khan said, adding that dates for its first meeting, to be held at the foreign ministers' level, were being worked out.
The meeting will discuss what should be the mandate of the Commission, its structure and objectives.
Meanwhile, Saran met Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz later in the evening and exchanged perceptions on the progress made in the peace process.