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Start of Pakistan-India Talks Described as 'Cordial' and 'Constructive' - 2004-02-16


Pakistan and India have resumed a stalled peace dialogue after a gap of nearly three years.

At the end of the first round of talks Monday, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman, Masood Khan, told reporters the discussions were held in a "cordial atmosphere and constructive manner."

"Both sides discussed modalities and timeframe for resumption of the composite dialogue," said Mr. Khan. "In this context some proposals were exchanged. Both sides expressed satisfaction over the progress made on the first day."

The spokesman said the two sides will meet for a second day of preparatory talks on Tuesday, paving the way for a meeting Wednesday between the countries' foreign secretaries.

Mr. Khan says the dialogue between Indian and Pakistan will address all the issues dividing the two countries, but the dispute over Kashmir will remain the main focus of the talks.

"There is a realization in India and Pakistan that war is not an option, that you have to look at ways to find a peaceful resolution of the outstanding disputes between the two countries," he added. "We are looking for solutions, which can ensure and guarantee peace and stability in the region."

He said ways of reducing the risk of an accidental nuclear conflict between the two countries will also come under discussion.

The mountainous region of Kashmir is the main source of tension between India and Pakistan. It has triggered two wars and brought the two rivals to the brink of another war in 2002.

But those tensions have eased since early last year, when India and Pakistan initiated a series of confidence-building measures, including a rare cease-fire along the disputed border in Kashmir.

The two have since re-established full diplomatic relations, and direct travel between the two countries has resumed.

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