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India and Pakistan Agree to New Steps to Reduce Conflict

India and Pakistan have agreed to a series of new measures to reduce military tensions and the risk of a nuclear conflict. They have also agreed to continue an existing cease-fire in the divided region of Kashmir. The agreements followed three days of talks in New Delhi.

Indian and Pakistani officials agreed on Monday that the two countries would not build any further army posts along their frontier in the disputed Kashmir region.

They also reaffirmed their commitment to abide by a cease-fire along the "Line of Control" that unofficially divides Kashmir between the two countries.

Officials say the rivals will upgrade an existing hotline between respective military commanders, and hold monthly meetings between high-ranking military officers along their borders.

Other measures include renewal of existing agreements to respect each other's air space, and the quick return of civilians who inadvertently cross the common border.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna says the new agreements will give an impetus to an ongoing peace process that began in January of last year.

"We are hopeful that the agreements reached today will lead to a enhancement of mutual trust, understanding and even greater people-to-people contact between the two countries," said Mr. Sarna.

Monday's confidence-building measures concluded a series of steps taken over the past three days in the Indian capital, New Delhi, to improve communication over nuclear issues and avoid an accidental nuclear exchange.

The two have formally decided to notify each other in advance of plans to test missiles, and to establish a hotline between top foreign ministry officials by September in order to avoid misunderstandings on nuclear issues.

These agreements represent the first formal nuclear confidence-building measures between the two.

Defense analysts say it is important for the two countries, with their history of conflict, to put such measures in place.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, and came close to a fourth three years ago. At that time, the heightened tensions between the two countries raised fears of a nuclear conflict.

The bitter relations stem primarily from their dispute over Kashmir - a region that is divided between them but claimed in full by both.

But tensions have been reduced since they began the peace process. Since then, the once-volatile Kashmir border has been quiet, and steps have been taken to improve general trade and communication.

There has still been no significant progress, however, on resolving the Kashmir dispute.