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Indian, Pakistani PMs Hold Unexpected Talks - 2004-01-04


The prime ministers of India and Pakistan have held a much-hoped-for bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit.

Officials describe the half-hour surprise meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan's Zafarulaah Jamali as a courtesy call.

After the meeting, Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha said the prime ministers exchanged views on recent steps their countries have taken to improve usually tense relations.

"They met in a warm and friendly atmosphere," he said. "The two prime ministers agreed that the momentum, which has been created in our bilateral relations should be maintained."

Foreign Minister Sinha says Mr. Vajpayee is expected to meet Monday with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry Spokesman Masood Khan calls the meetings a good beginning that could lead to resumption of official talks between India and Pakistan.

"It is a good beginning, and we hope that this would culminate in a dialogue," said Mr. Khan. "These high-level meetings are very important. They create a new atmosphere, and they can facilitate bilateral negotiations also, and the dialogue that Pakistan has been pursuing for some time."

Last April, India and Pakistan began a series of steps to ease border tensions that had pushed them to the brink of another war over the mountain territory of Kashmir.

In the past few months, India and Pakistan have restored full diplomatic relations and have resumed road, rail and air links. The two rival nations are also observing a cease-fire in divided Kashmir.

The meeting between Indian and Pakistan prime ministers followed the start of the summit gathering of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Islamabad.