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India Moves to Revive Peace Process with Pakistan - 2003-10-22


India has announced a series of confidence-building measures to revive a flagging peace process with Pakistan. But India has ruled out the resumption of a bilateral dialogue until terrorist violence ends in the disputed Kashmir region.

The measures proposed to Islamabad by Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha range from restarting talks to resuming air and rail links, to restoring sports ties.

Mr. Sinha also suggested starting a new bus service connecting the capitals of Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir, and a ferry link between the Indian city of Bombay and Pakistani city of Karachi.

The steps announced Wednesday continue a series of measures taken earlier in the year to normalize relations between the two South Asian rivals, who came close to war following an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001.

Since a peace initiative began in April, the two countries have restored diplomatic ties and a bus link but progress on other fronts has been slow.

The announcements came unexpectedly in the wake of recent hostile remarks by leaders in both India and Pakistan that appeared to have set back efforts to normalize their relations.

Foreign Minister Sinha said the new proposals show India's commitment to the peace initiative started in April.

"India is very serious about its peace offer with Pakistan, that the offer made by Prime Minister Vajpayee is a very serious and sincere offer of friendship with Pakistan, and that we will work overtime to make this initiative succeed," said Mr. Sinha.

However, Foreign Minister Sinha says it is not possible to begin peace negotiations with Islamabad because there is no evidence that Pakistan has ended infiltration of Islamic militants into Indian Kashmir.

"You cannot have sustained, productive and meaningful dialogue if cross-border terrorism is going on a the same time," the foreign minister stressed. "We continue to tell Pakistan about this that no meaningful, productive, and sustained dialogue can take place with Pakistan if they carry on with cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy."

New Delhi charges Islamabad with funding and training Islamic militant groups waging a separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir - a charge Pakistan strongly denies. The two countries have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which is divided between the two countries, but claimed by both.

The new peace overtures to Pakistan coincided with an announcement that India's Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani will meet members of Indian Kashmir's main separatist alliance for the first time. The step is seen as a renewed effort by India to reach out to the people of the disputed Kashmir region, where violence has surged in recent weeks.

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