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India-Pakistan Talks Enter Second Day, Confidence-Building Measures Gain Priority - 2004-02-17

Officials from India and Pakistan have met for a second day of peace talks in Islamabad. A Pakistani official says that one issue likely to be discussed is a mechanism to keep disputes between the two neighbors from degenerating into nuclear war.

Senior foreign ministry representatives from India and Pakistan continued work to finalize an agenda for a meeting Wednesday between the two countries' foreign secretaries.

Little detail about the discussions has been made public, but Pakistan Foreign Ministry Spokesman Masood Khan said that "nuclear restraint" between the two nuclear-armed neighbors is a priority of Pakistan's.

He said Pakistan would like to negotiate a joint agreement to lower the threat of a nuclear conflict in South Asia with a series of confidence-building measures, or CBMs, as he put it.

"In the past, India and Pakistan had discussed nuclear and conventional CBMs," he said. "And as the talks proceed, we would like to address a [nuclear] restraint regime between the two countries."

But Mr. Khan emphasized on Monday that the dispute over Kashmir, along with the general issue of "peace and security" in the region, will remain the main focus of the talks.

Since their independence from Great Britain in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars - two of them over Kashmir, which is the main source of tension between them.