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Pakistan and India Take Another Small Step Towards Normal Relations


Pakistan and India have agreed to restore a second cross-border train service starting next month, the latest move the South Asian rivals have taken to advance their slowly progressing peace process.

This rail link was suspended in 1965, after India and Pakistan went to war for the second time. Senior railway officials from the two countries announced the deal to restore the train service Tuesday, at the end of two days of talks in Islamabad.

The train is named the Thar Express, after a Pakistani desert near the route. It will connect Munnabao in India's western state of Rajasthan with Khokhrapar in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh.

The leader of the Pakistani delegation, Mushtaq Khan Jadoon, provided the highlights of the agreement after the talks ended.

"The Thar Express will run every Saturday and return the same day," said Mushtaq Khan Jadoon. "The first train will start on February 18. The talks were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere."

Pakistan and India resumed a wide-ranging peace process nearly two years ago, in an effort to reduce border tensions and resolve outstanding issues. Key among these is their dispute over Kashmir, which is divided between them and which both claim in its entirety.

Since then, the two have restored diplomatic, cultural and transportation ties, including bus links and another cross-border train route. These small but significant steps have allowed divided families on the two sides of the Kashmir border to re-establish contact. They are also seen as confidence-building measures that might help in future negotiations.

The moves have received widespread international acclaim, but there has still been no significant forward movement on the Kashmir dispute, the cause of two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947.

Both nations have tested nuclear weapons, and they almost began a fourth war in 2002, raising fears of a nuclear exchange. Intense international diplomacy defused that situation, and since then, the two countries have opted for peace talks to settle their differences.

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