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Indian Lawmakers Travel to Pakistan on Peace Mission - 2003-06-17

A delegation of Indian lawmakers is going to Pakistan Tuesday for a week-long discussion of relations between the two longtime rivals. The visit is the latest in a series of tentative moves toward peace.

At least 10 Indian members of parliament are traveling to Lahore Tuesday for a peace tour of Pakistan, coming at the invitation of a group of peace activists from the two countries.

The delegation is expected to include members of both of India's houses of parliament and is scheduled to visit the capital, Islamabad, and Pakistan's largest city, Karachi.

Their mission follows a similar trip made last month by Pakistani lawmakers and comes amid a thaw in tensions between the nuclear-armed adversaries.

Last month, after a year and a half-long freeze in relations, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called for renewed talks between the two sides, including discussions on the disputed territory of Kashmir. Since then, plans are underway to reestablish diplomatic and other ties.

But Pakistani political commentator Ayaz Amir says that the initial euphoria in Pakistan over the Indian leader's comments has subsided due to the slow pace in setting up negotiations.

"After the offer, or the speech, made by the Indian prime minister in Srinigar, there was a great upsurge of not only hope, but excitement in Pakistan that finally, after … the tension of the last one year, things are beginning to look better," said Mr. Amir. "Now there is a more sober appreciation that it's not going to take place overnight, it's not going to be sudden."

Mr. Amir added that some recent tough language from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has also tempered the mood. He cites a controversial interview with Mr. Musharraf on Indian television last Saturday, which provoked criticism from officials in New Delhi. "He took quite a hard line towards India, and the reaction from India was couched in disappointing terms," Mr. Amir noted.

President Musharraf said his remarks have been misinterpreted and he is still in favor of talks.

India and Pakistan have fought three major wars and several limited military conflicts since their independence from Britain in 1947.

The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since a December 2001 bombing against India's parliament building, an act New Delhi blames on militants allegedly sponsored by Pakistan.