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India, Pakistan End Talks on Security Issues

  • Anjana Pasricha

India and Pakistan have agreed to exchange civilian prisoners as they wrapped up their latest round of talks on security issues in New Delhi. As Anjana Pasricha reports from the Indian capital, the talks are part of a three-year-old peace process by the South Asian rivals.

After a day of talks between their home secretaries, India and Pakistan said they will release all detained fishermen from the other country. Both countries have detained fisherman from the other after they strayed across maritime borders.

The two countries also said Wednesday they will speed up the release of civilian prisoners languishing in each other's jails.

Since initiating the peace process, the two countries have swapped civilian prisoners on several occasions to encourage peace moves.

The talks were to conclude Wednesday, but ended earlier than scheduled as Pakistan's Home Secretary Syed Kamal Shah returned to Islamabad following violent clashes between Pakistani troops and students at a mosque.

Terrorism was also on the agenda at the talks, but observers say there appears to have been little progress on the issue.

India raised its concerns relating to terrorism, and it was agreed "that effective and sustained measures would be taken to combat the menace."

But independent political analyst Prem Shankar Jha called this a "routine incantation". He says there is little to satisfy concerns in New Delhi, which says there has been a spurt in infiltration by Islamic militants into Indian Kashmir from Pakistan.

"The immediate short-term problem is that there has been a rise in infiltration in Kashmir since the beginning of April, really, and that has been worrying people here ... so maybe in this context we wanted to get a reiteration from Pakistan, and what has come out is very bland," he said.

The security talks are part of a larger peace process begun three years ago. It has helped defuse tensions between the rivals, but there is little substantial progress on core issues, such as Kashmir, which are the source of their decades long animosity. Both countries claim the Himalayan region that is divided between them.

Political analyst Jha says the peace process appears to have slowed down somewhat in recent months, partly due to domestic political troubles that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf faces.

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