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Peace Process Format On Agenda At India-Pakistan Talks

Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran (L) shakes hands with Pakistan Ministry of External Affairs Additional Secretary, Tariq Osman Hyder prior to a meeting on Indian-Pakistan Nuclear Confidence building measures in New Delhi, 05 August 2005. India and Pakistan began a fresh round of talks aimed at building trust on military issues and avoiding an accidental nuclear war between the neighbouring rivals. The two sides hope to finalise an agreement to notify each other ahead of missile tests and upgrade an existing hotline to reduce risks of nuclear accidents. AFP photo by Raveendran.

Islamabad (AFP) Sep 01, 2005
Senior officials from India and Pakistan will hold talks in Islamabad Thursday with a possible restructuring of the complex and slow-moving peace process between the nuclear rivals likely to be on the agenda.

Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran flew into the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore late Wednesday and will meet his counterpart Riaz Mohammed Khan throughout Thursday.

"I am very happy to be here and look forward to having fulfilling discussions here," Saran told reporters after his arrival. He returns to New Delhi on Friday.

The meeting between the top civil servants in their respective foreign ministries is meant to review the progress of the ongoing "composite dialogue" launched by India and Pakistan in January 2004.

The peace process has so far produced a number of largely symbolic steps, including a historic bus service across the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir and the resumption of sporting ties.

The two countries also recently agreed to set up a hotline and other measures to stop an accidental nuclear exchange.

But progress has been sluggish on central issues such as Kashmir itself. The restive region is divided between the two nations but claimed in full by both, and has sparked two of their three wars since independence in 1947.

Other issues covered by the peace dialogue include a decades-long military standoff on a glacier high up in the mountains of Kashmir and boosting trade and cultural ties.

Officials said privately that the two sides were also expected to discuss changing the format of the process, under which each individual topic is discussed by relevant ministries at different times.

Instead India is likely to propose setting up ministerial commissions on each side to discuss all subjects at the same time and cut down on the number of meetings.

India's Saran was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying that the composite dialogue would continue "but perhaps in somewhat of a changed format." He did not elaborate, the news agency said.

Pakistani officials have previously complained that India is slowing up the process, while India continues to blame Pakistan for supporting Islamic rebels who have waged a 16-year insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The officials may also set the agenda for a rare meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly conference on September 14.

The last time the two leaders met -- to coincide with an India-Pakistan cricket match in New Delhi in April -- they jointly declared the peace process "irreversible".

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Top Pakistan, India Officials Hold Peace Talks
Islamabad (AFP) Sep 01, 2005
Senior Indian and Pakistani officials held "positive" talks in Islamabad Thursday to review an ongoing peace process and prepare the ground for a meeting between the leaders of the nuclear rivals.

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