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Pakistan's Envoy to Resume Talks in India Soon - 2003-06-02

Pakistan's first envoy to India in more than a year says he will be going to New Delhi with the expectation that the two countries will soon begin talks to resolve their differences.

The new ambassador to New Delhi, Aziz Ahmed Khan, is not saying when he will leave for India, but he says he is going there with an open mind. "With the hope and expectation that the two sides would be able to sit across the table in a meaningful manner with an open mind and resolve all outstanding issue, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir, so that the subcontinent and the people of this subcontinent can see peace," Mr. Khan said.

Mr. Khan is a career diplomat, and currently serves as the Pakistan Foreign Ministry's spokesman. He made his comments at his final press conference in that role.

Mr. Khan was appointed high commissioner to New Delhi last week. India has named Shiv Shankar Memon its new ambassador to Islamabad.

The appointment of the ambassadors is being seen as a significant step toward the resumption of official talks between India and Pakistan. Mr. Khan said he hopes the dialogue will soon take off. "A logjam has been broken and the two sides have shown very positive signals and we hope that this process will keep gathering momentum," he said.

Diplomatic relations and transport links between India and Pakistan were cut following an attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. India alleges the attackers came from Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

In April, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee offered a hand of friendship to Pakistan and announced a plan to restore full diplomatic relations and transport links. Pakistan has responded positively to the Indian peace moves. But the two sides have yet to set a date for resuming ties.

The disputed Kashmir region is at the center of tensions between the two South Asian nations. India said Pakistan is training and arming separatists to fuel a decade-long insurgency in the Indian controlled part of Kashmir, which is predominantly Muslim. Islamabad said it is merely offering diplomatic and political support to what it calls the freedom struggle in Kashmir.