Pakistan PM holds 'very friendly' talks with Indian foreign minister
Updated: 2004-11-23 00:16
India and Pakistan committed themselves to continue dialogue on Kashmir
during a meeting between Pakistan Premier Shaukat Aziz and Indian Foreign
Minister Natwar Singh described as "very friendly".
"It was a very
friendly, positive and forward looking meeting," Indian foreign ministry
spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters soon after the talks had ended on Tuesday.
The tone was in marked contrast to a verbal spat between the leadership of
the rival states in the past week when they sniped bitterly at each other over
Kashmir, their main point of dispute.
"SAARC issues were discussed. It was felt that although a good start had
been made in Islamabad, there was potential for further regional cooperation,"
Aziz, who is on a visit of the region as outgoing chairman of the
regional South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), arrived in
Delhi mid-afternoon accompanied by six ministers, including railways and
"On the bilateral side, both sides felt composite dialogue should
continue. Prime Minister Aziz said the delegation he has brought reflects the
commitment of Pakistan civil society to this process."
The composite dialogue is the name given to the process in which
officials and politicians of the two countries are discussing eight key points
of dispute between them, including Kashmir.
The first round of the talks, which began in February, was completed in
September while the second round kicks off on November 29.
Aziz is due to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday and was
scheduled to hold talks with leaders of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the
All Parties Hurriyat Conference, over dinner late Tuesday.
Aziz also met opposition leader Lal Krishan Advani on Tuesday and was due
to hold talks with former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who started the
current peace process by offering a "hand of friendship" to Pakistan in April
last year, ending two years of chill in relations.
Aziz's visit comes in the wake of fresh disagreements between the two
nuclear rivals who have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir and came
close to a third in 2001 after armed militants attacked the Indian parliament.
In his first official visit to Kashmir last week, Prime Minister Singh
rejected redrawing borders as a solution, effectively scuttling a suggestion by
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf that the disputed state could be divided
into seven regions -- any one of which could be demilitarised and placed under a
United Nations mandate or under joint control or given independence.
In response to Singh's statement Musharraf told AFP in an exclusive
interview that the "vibes" from New Delhi were not good.
But Aziz during a visit to Sri Lanka on Monday struck a more conciliatory
"My visit tomorrow will improve the atmosphere of relations between the
two countries," Aziz said. "The relations have improved considerably... It is
very sportsmanlike across the board."
In an interview with the BBC, he noted that Pakistan and India have in
the past year restored air, road and rail links as well as cultural and sports
ties including a tour of Pakistan by the Indian cricket team.
"If I had to do a very objective analysis of where we are today versus 12
months ago, I think we are substantially ahead," Aziz said, adding that the main
purpose of his visit was "to get the dialogue process moving forward".