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Pakistan to Restore Full Diplomatic Relations with India - 2003-05-06

Pakistan says it has decided to restore full diplomatic relations and transportation links with rival India in response to similar measures announced by New Delhi last week. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of India last month said he wants to establish permanent peace with Pakistan before he dies.

Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali told a news conference Tuesday his goal is to build trust between India and Pakistan. He says he has agreed to restore road, rail and air links as well as full diplomatic relations to set the stage for what he calls a "meaningful" dialogue with India. Mr. Jamali says the travel links will be resumed as soon as India agrees to the move.

"It is my hope that India will seize the moment, put aside the acrimony of the past and purposefully move forward with Pakistan peacefully resolving all issues, including the core issue of Kashmir," he said.

The latest peace gestures from New Delhi and Islamabad raise the best hope in nearly two years of a dialogue about Kashmir and other issues separating India and Pakistan. The divided Kashmir region has been the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan.

Prime Minister Jamali says he hopes the two countries could resolve the 50-year-old conflict through what he calls a sustained and constructive dialogue.

"Of course we have to keep our fingers crossed politically," he said. "But the way it has been approached and said (by India), I think, I am hopeful, and "Inshaallah" [God willing], a good, solid solution [of the Kashmir dispute] should be coming forward."

Mr. Jamali says, as a goodwill gesture, he has also ordered the release of detained Indian fishermen and sailors, and wants India and Pakistan to restore sports links in cricket and field hockey games. The Pakistani leader says that all political parties, including hard-line Islamic groups in the country, are backing his efforts to improve relations with neighboring India.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has linked the resumption of peace talks to an end of what he calls Pakistan-backed cross-border terrorism in Indian Kashmir. Pakistani government denies the charge and insists the talks should be held without conditions. India claims the entire Kashmir, and accuses Pakistan of fueling a separatist insurgency in the majority Muslim region. Pakistan denies the charge and is seeking a U.N.-sponsored referendum to allow the people of Kashmir to decide their own fate.