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India Cautiously Welcomes Pakistan Rapprochement Offers - 2003-05-07

India has cautiously welcomed measures announced by Pakistan to improve relations between the two countries. But New Delhi says further progress in the recent peace process will depend on action Islamabad takes to end what India describes as Pakistan's support of Islamic insurgent groups.

India says it welcomes Pakistan's moves to restore full diplomatic ties and civil aviation links that had been snapped following an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. The measures were announced by Islamabad on Tuesday in response to a similar move by India last week.

Pakistan had announced it wants to resume road and rail links, and renew sporting ties that had also been suspended.

But Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Navtej Sarna says these steps will have to wait until New Delhi sees Islamabad taking measures to end what it calls "cross-border terrorism."

"These measures can be considered in due course," said Mr. Sarna, "as we see progress on the steps announced by the prime minister, and there is evidence of Pakistan taking firm and credible action against cross border terrorism, and to dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism."

Indian charges that Pakistan supports Muslim militant groups waging a violent separatist insurgency in Kashmir are a core issue behind the hostile relations between the two countries. Islamabad denies the allegation, and says the issue can be discussed during a dialogue between the two countries.

New Delhi also described measures announced by Islamabad to boost trade between the two countries as "clearly inadequate." On Tuesday, Pakistan announced it is taking more than 70 items off a trade embargo list with India. New Delhi wants more items removed from that list.

Meanwhile, New Delhi says it has made a formal request to Pakistan on the appointment of a new high commissioner in Islamabad.

The peace initiative between India and Pakistan began last month when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee offered what he called a "hand of friendship" to Pakistan after a nearly two-year long hostile silence between the two countries. Pakistan reciprocated by establishing a high-level contact with the Indian leader. Since then hopes have risen of a breakthrough in the chilly relations between the two countries, which stood on the brink of war last year, but analysts say progress is likely to be slow.