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Pakistan PM to Discuss Kashmir Issue with India

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Sunday he will discuss all outstanding issues, including the territorial dispute over Kashmir, with his Indian counterpart during a visit to New Delhi next week.

Aziz is to leave for India on November 23 as chairman of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, or SAARC. He also is to visit Sri Lanka and the Maldives to discuss regional and international issues.

"I am anxiously waiting to travel to India and other SAARC countries. I will discuss Kashmir and other issues with the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh," Aziz told reporters.

Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations, but Aziz's visit to New Delhi comes at a time when officials from the two countries are preparing for peace talks next month.

It also comes weeks after Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf said Pakistan and India should consider making some areas of Kashmir independent, placing them under joint Indian-Pakistani control, or putting them under the administration of the United Nations.

India initially reacted coolly because the plan was not presented formally, but on Saturday Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh said New Delhi would consider any proposal from Pakistan to settle the Kashmir issue if it is formally conveyed.

Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said following the Indian announcement of its intention to reduce troops in Jammu and Kashmir, the statement of the Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh reflects a positive and constructive approach towards the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

The spokesman said Pakistan is all for engagement and for result-oriented dialogue to settle all outstanding issues. "We must explore ways to settle our differences through peaceful means."

Aziz said yesterday that Pakistan and India "are seriously engaged in the process of confidence-building measures to resolve all disputes and to find a durable solution" to the Kashmir issue, according to the state-run news agency, the Associated Press of Pakistan.

It quoted Aziz as saying that Pakistan believes the issue "should be resolved through peaceful means according to the aspirations of Kashmiris."

In recent months, Pakistan and India have held talks on less contentious issues, but have not yet begun talks on Kashmir.

(China Daily November 15, 2004)

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