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Pakistan-India Peace Talks Make Slow But Steady Progress


Pakistan and India have completed their latest round of peace talks in Islamabad on a decidedly upbeat note. There were no specific advances, but both sides say the summit was a positive step forward for the two rivals. VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

There were no breakthroughs during the two days of talks this week, but officials from both sides say minor agreements were reached, and relations are slowly but surely improving.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan said he expected 2007 to be a "watershed year" in bilateral relations.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said this week's talks focused primarily on the long-running dispute over Kashmir, which both countries claim and which remains bitterly divided between the two.

Menon refused to discuss specifics, but he insisted progress was being made.

"I think the important thing is we are engaged in a very intensive dialogue," he said. "And it is our intention to bring this dialogue to a successful conclusion."

This is the fourth round of talks in the two country's three-year-old peace process. Further talks have been scheduled for later this year.

Pakistan security Analyst Samina Ahmed says that given the two countries' history, being able to progress to a fourth round of talks is itself a positive step forward.

"Expecting results overnight is unrealistic. The importance here is the process. The longer the two countries sustain this dialogue, the more likely it is that they find a viable peace," she said.

When it comes to South Asia, she says even the absence of conflict should be considered a major achievement.

The latest round of talks was held just weeks after a terrorist bombing threatened to derail the sensitive peace process.

At least 68 people were killed when bombs ripped through a packed train linking the two countries. Indian officials blamed the attack on Pakistani militants.

Pakistan and India have gone to war three times since they gained their independence from Britain in 1947. They nearly went to war again in 2002, and tensions along their lengthy border remain high.

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