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India-Pakistan foreign minister talks end monday
Updated: 2004-09-06 13:42

India and Pakistan tried on Monday to build fresh momentum into a nine-month-old peace process that has frayed over their dispute over Kashmir.

Although Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, have said their talks in New Delhi have been held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, the nuclear-armed rivals have made little progress on Kashmir and pointedly repeated existing positions.

But after the final round of discussions on Monday, Singh and Kasuri were at least expected to announce progress on a proposal to start a bus service between the two parts of divided Kashmir, and on better communication between their militaries, officials said.

Also the two sides were expected to announce dates for a first meeting between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who will both be in New York for a U.N. meeting later this month.

Analysts say the bus service could be a first step toward easing security on the heavily militarized Line of Control, a cease-fire line that divides Kashmir, and re-uniting separated families. "This is a matter under discussion, we have been hoping that this will be sorted out and the bus service will be operationalized," said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna.

The two sides have wrangled over what documents Kashmiris would use to cross the Line of Control.

"Talks: very slow but there's movement," The Indian Express newspaper said, adding the two sides were trying hard to show some progress.

On Sunday, the rivals sought to put behind them renewed discord over Kashmir, saying they were determined to push the peace process forward.

The neighbors, who went to the brink of war in 2002, embarked on a peace process in January with a new sense of purpose.

But some of that hope has dissipated, especially after India's center-left Congress party won back power in May, replacing the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Since then, the two sides have aired decades-old differences over Kashmir.

India said it had conveyed its concerns to Pakistan about renewed guerrilla incursions into its part of Kashmir from Pakistan.

Pakistan rejected the accusation, and instead said both sides must focus on tackling the dispute over the Himalayan region and must involve Kashmiris in the dialogue, which in turn drew sharp words from India. India has said all bilateral issues must be thrashed out in the peace process, and that talks should not be held hostage to Kashmir. Pakistan says all other issues are secondary.

India claims all of Kashmir, while Pakistan seeks implementation of U.N. resolutions on a plebiscite to decide whether the Muslim-majority territory should be merged with mostly Hindu India or folded into Islamic Pakistan.

A revolt against Indian began in Kashmir in 1989 and has killed more than 40,000 people. India accuses Pakistan of aiding the militants; Pakistan denies doing so.

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