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Singh and Musharraf Pledge Progress on Peace

  • Patricia Nunan

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf have agreed to push ahead with measures to help overcome decades of hostilities between their countries. The two leaders met in New Delhi, after watching their national teams face off in a cricket match.

Officials from both countries describe the two hours of talks between Prime Minister Singh and President Musharraf Sunday as warm and positive.

President Musharraf says he is pleased with his visit.

He says, the talks were held in a positive and congenial atmosphere, where all issues, including the Kashmir dispute were discussed. He says he is quite happy with the situation.

Discussions focused on steps the two nations can take to build confidence between them, after decades of animosity, most of it generated by their conflicting claims to Kashmir.

Indian Foreign Secretary Syam Sarin outlined the ideas. "There was a very broad-based discussion on the importance of developing economic and commercial relations between the two countries," he said. "So, in that context, several of these plans were discussed - pipelines, road linkages, rail linkages."

But India repeated its position that it will not redraw the disputed border in Kashmir. Currently, India controls about two-thirds of the region, and faces an insurgency by Islamic militants, who want Kashmir to become independent, or to join with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

It is that impasse that India and Pakistan hope to eventually overcome. Some progress has been evident.

India and Pakistan this month launched a new bus link to take civilians across the disputed border, a move that is intended to reunite divided families, and build an atmosphere of trust between the two nations.

It is the first time that route has been opened since 1947, when India and Pakistan won independence from Britain, and almost immediately began the first of their three wars, two of them over Kashmir. Stakes have become higher since each nation became a nuclear power.

This is President Musharraf's first visit to India since a failed summit in 2001.

President Musharraf began his day of meetings in New Delhi by briefly attending a cricket match between Indian and Pakistani national teams. Cricket is hugely popular in South Asia. When it brings Indian and Pakistani leaders together, those talks are referred to as cricket diplomacy.

Mr. Musharraf wrapped up his discussions by meeting with moderate Kashmiri separatist leaders. The group, called the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, wants New Delhi and Islamabad to move past cricket diplomacy, and to come up with a road map for peace in the region.

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