ISLAMABAD - Top diplomats of Pakistan and India on Friday agreed in Kyrgyz capital Bishkek that their respective prime ministers would meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in an effort to resume the bilateral dialogue process.

According to reports from Bishkek, both sides also agreed to respect the 2003 ceasefire agreement to reduce tension on Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and to strengthen existing mechanisms to make them more effective for this purpose.

Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had two sessions with his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid on the margins of the SCO summit in Bishkek, one Thursday evening and the other Friday morning.

They agreed to finalise the agenda of the proposed September 29 meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in New York through diplomatic channels, based on the progress made thus far through back channel contacts as well as in various working groups.

Despite the expected reservations, concern and disappointment shared by the two key diplomats over different issues, they agreed in principle that dialogue is the only way forward to remove irritants and put the fledging peace process back on track. In this context, it is believed, they also discussed the agenda of the prime minister-level meeting.

Although some reports in the Indian media gave the impression that the meeting was made conditional to progress by Pakistan on the Mumbai attacks probe, indications from both New Delhi and Islamabad are that the two prime ministers would go ahead with the planned meeting if all goes well till then.

Notably no press statement was issued by the Foreign Office on this important meeting. The only communication received on the subject from the Spokesperson’s Office Friday evening contained comments of Sartaj Aziz given to an Indian TV reporter after his meeting with Salman Khurshid in Bishkek.

“We both agreed that it was important to respect the 2003 Ceasefire agreement in order to reduce tensions and for this purpose, we agreed that the existing mechanism shall be used more effectively,” Aziz was quoted as saying.

Currently, Pakistan and India have two mechanisms. First, the weekly meeting between the two DGMOs who talk every Tuesday; and second, a Joint Working Group on Cross-LoC CBMs at the level of joint secretaries or DGs of ministries of foreign affairs.

According to the handout, Aziz described his meeting as “very useful” and said it was held in a “frank and cordial atmosphere.” During the meeting Aziz regretted that the momentum which the two prime ministers had created for the peace process and the composite dialogue this June had been stalled by the unfortunate LoC incident.

“I also emphasised that the objective of establishing durable peace in South Asia is of such paramount importance that it should not be held hostage to electoral politics or the process allowed to be derailed by a single incident,” said the PM Adviser, who is leading Pakistan delegation to 13th Summit of the Heads of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the Kyrgyz capital.

Agencies add: Referring to tension at the LoC, the Indian minister told reporters in Bishkek: “Of course, we talked about what can be done. I have emphasised that the mechanism in place... should be used more effectively. Let us see beyond that how one can examine and how things will shape up. We still have a few days.” But Khurshid insisted if there is a lack of conducive environment for the peace process, “there is a need to correct things to proceed. If things are not sorted, then difficulties are faced.”

About the LoC truce, Khurshid said, “That is the most critical confidence building and that is the most critical commitment that has been made by both countries and both have to live up to it, which is that there must be peace on the Line of Control and peace on the border.” The ceasefire, he said, is a “basic (and) fundamental ingredient of confidence” between the two countries and the truce and the LoC “must be respected”.

Mumbai attacks had derailed the peace process between the two South Asian neighbours and since then New Delhi has been unresponsive to Islamabad’s peaceful overtures, demanding more concrete actions on certain fronts.

A recent surge in tensions came with killing of five Indian soldiers at LoC on August 6 which was blamed by India first on Pakistani troops and then on Pakistan-backed militants; Pakistan vehemently denied both the claims.

The killings sparked repeated trade of fire and more deaths along the de facto border and both sides accused each other of violating the truce.