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India,  Pakistan Prepare for Peace Talks - 2004-09-04


India and Pakistan's foreign ministers are opening key talks in the process of building peace between the neighboring countries.

India's Foreign Minister Natwar Singh has warned not to expect spectacular developments in the two-day meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri.

These are the first structured talks with the Congress Party-led coalition that came to power in May and Pakistan.

On the eve of the talks, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in New Delhi the government is ready to talk to any militant group, including those in Kashmir, as long as they abandon violence.

The Indian Prime Minister made it clear that Pakistan will have to stop militant infiltration from Pakistan into Indian Kashmir.

"Our view is that the starting point of this whole dialogue process was the statement of January [6] of President Pervez Musharraf that Pakistani territory will not be used to provide any encouragement to acts of terrorism," he said. "So the dialogue can move forward only if terrorism is under control."

Earlier, Indian officials told VOA that the talks will focus on terrorism and the extradition of 25 terrorists India claims are hiding in Pakistan.

Foreign Minister Singh has said that India is ready to hold sustained discussions with Pakistan over all issues, including the Kashmir dispute. The mostly Muslim region is divided between the two countries, but both claim all of it. They have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee initiated the peace process with Pakistan last year, after the two countries spent more than a year on the brink of war. But his party lost power in May, leaving the Congress Party leadership to push forward with talks.

While in New Delhi, Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri will also call on Prime Minister Singh and meet with the National Security Adviser, J.N. Dixit.

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