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Pakistan, India Agree to Continue Peace Process - 2004-05-24

Pakistans President Pervez Musharraf says that in a telephone conversation with India's new prime minister, they have agreed to continue a peace process aimed at resolving bilateral disputes.

President Musharraf told a gathering of Pakistani students in the capital that he spoke to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by telephone for 20 minutes late Sunday to discuss the peace process that the previous Indian government initiated a year ago.

"I am very glad it was an extremely positive message that he gave me, a desire to have, to resolve all disputes with Pakistan and to have an excellent relationship with Pakistan," he said. "We reciprocate that feeling. I did. This is the way forward. We want to resolve our disputes and the core issue is Kashmir, of course, we must resolve it."

The territorial Kashmir dispute has strained bilateral relations for more than five decades. It has triggered two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Both sides claim the divided region, which remains a main source of tensions.

The two nuclear-capable countries agreed earlier this year agreed on a framework to settle outstanding issues. They were due to discuss steps to reduce risks of a nuclear conflict this week in New Delhi, but those discussions have been postponed at the request of Indias new government.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said there is no concern in Islamabad over the postponement of the nuclear talks. He says leaders of the new Indian government have vowed to continue the peace process with Pakistan.

"The statements that have been made by Manmohan Singh, the new Prime Minister of India, and the new foreign minister, are very encouraging," said Mr. Khan. "They have given strong signals that they would stick to the timetable for talks that they would continue to cooperate with us in sustaining the peace process."

The Pakistani spokesman says that both India and Pakistan need to maintain the momentum of confidence-building steps and dialogue.