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India and Pakistan Talks End on a Whimper

Pakistan and India ended two days of talks Tuesday without making a breakthrough over differences.

A joint statement after the meetings between Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar and Indian counterpart Shyam Saran reported no progress towards a solution of the Kashmir issue at the heart of their rivalry.


In the Islamabad talks, the two sides also failed to complete an agreement to notify each other formally before testing ballistic missiles, although the statement said they had narrowed their differences and agreed to work towards early finalization.


The statement said the foreign secretaries had agreed that meetings on six issues, including border disputes, counter-terrorism and drug trafficking, and economic cooperation should take place on dates to be agreed between April and June.


They also agreed that meetings on trade and border security and more dialogue to build confidence on their nuclear and conventional arsenals would be held between January and June.


The statement confirmed that foreign and prime ministers of the two countries would meet at the South Asian summit in Dhaka next month and that Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh would visit Islamabad in February.


The foreign secretaries, meanwhile, planned to meet again between July and August to review overall progress in the peace process, which was re-launched last January.


Yesterday's talks on Kashmir lasted just a hour. As expected, they produced no breakthrough given that the sides remain far apart on an issue that has caused two of their three wars since independence in 1947.


"This is obviously a very complex issue. We will need some time to deal with this," Saran told a news conference after the talks.


The two sides did agree to promote more contacts between the local military commanders along their border and Saran said India had proposed setting up five points along the military line dividing Kashmir to allow the reunion of divided families.


(China Daily December 29, 2004)

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