Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz wrapped up his two-day visit to India on Wednesday, after holding talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to improve relations and solve outstanding border issues.
Aziz's visit to India, the first by a Pakistani prime minister in 13 years, began with a meeting with External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh on Tuesday.
His talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday focused on the peace process, particularly Kashmir, which has been a cause of enmity between them since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Manmohan Singh had telephoned Aziz on Tuesday prior to his arrival, reportedly saying that the world had "lived through times where what was simply unacceptable in international relations has become the norm. Who could say some 20 years ago that the Berlin Wall would be a thing of the past?"
During his visit to Kashmir last week, the Indian prime minister had ruled out any redrawing of borders or further division of the state, which had led to accusations from Islamabad of not showing enough flexibility.
President Musharraf suggested last month that Kashmir should be demilitarized and India and Pakistan agree on a compromise over its disputed status, which could involve joint control, some form of UN control or independence. But the new idea received a cool response from New Delhi.
Despite the problems of Kashmir, India and Pakistan have witnessed a remarkable improvement in their relationship over the past year.
They agreed a ceasefire, restored full diplomatic ties, sports and some transport links, and started negotiations on a range of issues, including nuclear-weapon "confidence-building measures."
Before traveling to Kashmir, Manmohan Singh announced a reduction in troops deployed there, which was welcomed by both Kashmiris and Islamabad.
Aziz's visit also revived hopes for further economic cooperation. During his stay in New Delhi, he discussed a long-term plan with Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to build a pipeline that will run through Pakistan and bring gas to energy-hungry India from Iran.
Both countries have been keen on the US$ 4 billion project for years, but have not made progress because of the tensions between them. India imports 70 percent of its energy consumption.
"Now that both countries have warmed their political ties, they are eager to make the pipeline project a reality," a senior economist said.
(Xinhua News Agency November 25, 2004)