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Pakistan Hopeful Talks with India Will Resume Soon - 2003-05-21

Pakistan says it is hopeful that peace talks with India to settle the long-running dispute over Kashmir will resume soon. Both the South Asian rivals have taken tentative steps toward dialogue after a nearly two-year stand off, but they are keeping quiet about when face-to-face talks will take place.

Relations between India and Pakistan began to thaw last month when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee offered a hand of friendship to Islamabad. Pakistan has responded positively and both sides have agreed to restore full diplomatic relations and resume bilateral transport links.

India has appointed a new ambassador to Islamabad while Pakistan has yet to make such a decision.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri said his country will soon appoint a new ambassador to New Dehli to improve the political environment and to build trust between the two countries.

"Both sides have to move on the side of confidence-building measures," he said. "We are very keen to purse this further. The appointment of a [Pakistani] High Commissioner [to India] will only help this process further."

Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee warned on Sunday that peace talks between the two countries could only move ahead if Pakistan stops cross-border attacks by Pakistan-based Kashmiri separatists. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the militants fighting for Indian Kashmir's independence or its merger with Pakistan.

Pakistan denies the charges and says it is only providing moral and diplomatic support to the freedom struggle in Kashmir.

Foreign Minister Kasuri reiterated that his country has done enough to prevent any movement across the military line of control dividing Kashmir.

"Of course for total cessation of all activities you know there is only one way, you have to give them [the people in Kashmir] hope," said Mr. Kasuri. "Give them hope by talking in positive terms and you will see that there will be no activity. But as far as the government of Pakistan is concerned we have said repeatedly that we are trying our best [to stop the infiltration]. What more do you expect us to do?"

Pakistan maintains that U.N. sponsored international observers should be deployed along the disputed border to verify its claims that Islamic militants are not crossing into the Indian portion of Kashmir from Pakistani territory. India rejects the proposal. An Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman said India supports joint monitoring if there is enough trust between the two countries.