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Pakistan, India Pledge to Continue Peace Talks - 2004-07-21

The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan have pledged to continue their peace dialogue. They met on the sidelines of a South Asian regional summit in Islamabad. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri and his Indian counterpart Natwar Singh said they had "frank and friendly" talks covering all contentious issues in their relations. But they offered few details. Mr. Kasuri says they will meet again in New Delhi on September 5 and 6 to further the peace process.

"After all, when you meet for 75 minutes you cannot just be talking about weather," he noted. "You have to discuss about everything and we have discussed. But we mutually agreed that we will speak more after our meeting in Delhi."

The territorial dispute over Kashmir is the major cause of decades of hostility between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

The two foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, conference in Islamabad.

Officials from India and Pakistan have held a series of meetings since January to seek solutions to Kashmir and other disputes. More meetings are scheduled before the foreign ministers meet in September.

Indian Foreign Minister Singh says the peace process is going well.

"I can assure you that the process started in January this year will be carried forward by both sides, " he said.

Mr. Singh says what he calls "cross-border terrorism" in the Indian-ruled portion of Kashmir also came under discussion. New Delhi faces an armed insurgency in the Muslim-majority region. It blames the violence on Pakistan-based Islamic militants crossing the military Line of Control dividing Kashmir.

Pakistan denies any such movement from its side. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir, which has caused two of the three wars between them.

The rivalry has undermined economic development in South Asia, one of the world's poorest and most crowded regions.

Many political analysts think improved relations between India and Pakistan will help the seven-nation SAARC achieve its goals of alleviating poverty and enhancing economic cooperation in the region