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Pakistan Welcomes Peace Pledge by New Indian Leader - 2004-05-20

Pakistan is welcoming Indian prime minister-designate Manmohan Singh's stated intention to continue the peace process with Islamabad.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman, Masood Khan, says his government believes the first statements by India's new leader are constructive and forward-looking in terms of trying to resolve bilateral disputes - including the territory of Kashmir.

"The statements that have been given by Mr. Manmohan Singh are positive and upbeat," he said. "I think his pronouncements constitute a good beginning and it is a good omen for the continuity of the process that we have started already. And I think that this provides the basis for the continuity of the process of dialogue."

Mr. Singh's Congress Party scored a parliamentary election upset, defeating India's Hindu nationalists who had engaged in serious peace overtures with Pakistan in the past 14 months. Prime Minister-designate Singh promised to continue seeking friendly relations with Pakistan.

India and Pakistan are due to discuss nuclear weapons confidence building measures in New Delhi next week (May 25-26). Mr. Khan says those talks are on schedule and a Pakistani delegation of experts will be leaving for India on Monday.

"There has been no disruption," he said. "There was some uncertainty about these talks because of the transition in India. But these talks are on track and we hope that other meetings would also be on track."

The upcoming nuclear talks are meant to reduce the risks of non-conventional war between India and Pakistan. They are part of a peace plan agreed to by the outgoing government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The unresolved territorial dispute over Kashmir has triggered two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. The divided region is the main source of bilateral tensions.