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Pakistan and India fail to finalise nuclear steps
Updated: 2004-12-16 01:15

Pakistan and India failed to finalise any agreements on steps to avert misunderstandings over their nuclear and conventional arsenals on Wednesday but, nevertheless, called their two-day talks constructive.

The talks in Islamabad that began on Tuesday were part of a cautious peace process re-launched under international pressure early this year after the two nuclear-armed states alarmed the world by going to the brink of a fourth war in 2002.

The head of the Indian delegation, Meera Shankar, an additional secretary at the foreign ministry, said the two sides had had "constructive engagement on a range of issues" and hoped to continue the discussions at various levels in future.

"We remain committed to the process," she told reporters. "Both sides have put their concepts -- clearly considerable ground has been covered."

The head of the Pakistani delegation Tariq Osman Hyder said some progress had been made, but he and Shankar made clear that no formal agreement had been reached to notify each other of missile tests, a practice currently followed informally.

"Agreements of these nature are very complex and raise many questions. We will continue our discussions," Shankar said.

Hyder said the two sides had good discussions about the technical parameters of an agreement in June to establish a hotline to avert nuclear misunderstandings. "We have agreed to make it operational as soon as possible," he said.

"Both countries are notifying each other about missile tests," he said, but added that legal and other issues still had to be ironed out to enable a formal agreement.


Analysts had not expected any major breakthrough from the talks, especially after India warned last week that any U.S. arms sales to Pakistan would affect its relations with Washington and the slow-moving India-Pakistan peace process.

India's comments came after the Pentagon notified the U.S. Congress last month of three proposed arms sales to Pakistan worth $1.2 billion. These include eight P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft, which Pakistan says would be used in the hunt for Islamic militants on its western border.

Pakistan had called the Indian statement "disturbing" and described its arms-buying programme as "modest" compared with that of India, which was spending tens of billions of dollars to acquire sophisticated weapons from around the world.

Diplomats say Pakistan has been alarmed by India's conventional arms build-up and realising it cannot keep pace, may feel the need to lower its nuclear-use threshold as a precaution.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who is visiting Beijing, said earlier trust was the key to solving the rivalry between India and Pakistan.

"Confidence building measures play a significant role in paving the way for a resolution of outstanding issues," he was quoted by the official APP news agency as telling the China Daily newspaper.

The mood between Indian and Pakistan has lightened considerably since they resumed high level contacts last year, with full diplomatic ties restored along with sporting ties and some transport links.

But there has been little sign of progress in resolving their rivalry over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, the cause of two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

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