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Top Pakistan, India Officials Hold Peace Talks

Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran (L) walks with his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammed Khan prior to a meeting in Islamabad, 01 September 2005. Senior officials from India and Pakistan will hold talks in Islamabad on 01 September with a possible restructuring of the complex and slow-moving peace process between the nuclear rivals likely to be on the agenda. AFP photo by Aamir Qureshi.

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.

India's top civil servant at the foreign ministry Shyam Saran and his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammed Khan were reviewing the progress of the ongoing "composite dialogue" launched by India and Pakistan in January 2004.

"The talks this time were held a bit in advance because there is an important meeting which is taking place in New York between President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," Khan told reporters.

The two South Asian leaders will meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly conference on September 14.

"We thought it useful to have this meeting and ... discuss matters relating to this important meeting in September," Khan said after the talks, which lasted around two hours.

"Today we had a good, a positive meeting in a cordial atmosphere. We reviewed the entire gamut of the second round of composite dialogue which had spread over almost one year," he said.

At the last meeting between Singh and Musharraf -- to coincide with an India-Pakistan cricket match in New Delhi in April -- they jointly declared the peace process "irreversible".

Thursday's talks were also in preparation for a meeting between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers between October 3 and 5 in Islamabad, Khan said.

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.

Indian troops Wednesday shot dead nine suspected Islamic militants whom they accused of crossing the heavily militarised border separating the Indian and Pakistani sectors of Kashmir.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz raised the issue of alleged human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir when Saran called on him late Thursday.

"The prime minister hoped that human rights violations in IOK (Indian-occupied Kashmir) would be brought to an end and Kashmiris would be made part of the Pakistan-India peace process," a foreign ministry statement said.

Aziz said he hoped that "progress in all areas of the composite dialogue would be in tandem meaningful and result oriented."

He also expressed the hope that a proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project would contribute to building economic confidence between them.

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.

Saran will also call on Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri during his stay in Islamabad, officials said. He is due to return to New Delhi on Friday.

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

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Peace Process Format On Agenda At India-Pakistan Talks
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.

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