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India, Pakistan Reach Broad Agreement on Peace Dialogue Framework - 2004-02-17

Pakistan and India have broadly agreed on the framework for sustained peace talks about Kashmir and other disputes straining bilateral ties. The agreement followed a second day of discussions Indian and Pakistani officials are holding in Islamabad.

"The two delegations met and a broad understanding was reached on the modalities of the timeframe for commencing the composite dialogue,"said Masood Khan, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman. "The two delegations did not go into the substance of various agenda items that have been discussed. The priority for them was to come up with an agenda, with timeframe and they have tried to structure the dialogue."

Without giving specific details, the Pakistani spokesman said the current round of talks will conclude Wednesday when foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet in Islamabad to approve the recommendations of the negotiating teams.

But analysts say the disputed Kashmir region is likely to dominate discussions. The divided territory has triggered two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since 1947. It remains the major source of bilateral tensions.

The nuclear-armed rival nations returned to the negotiating table Monday, after a gap of nearly three years.

Spokesman Khan says Pakistan also wants to negotiate a joint agreement with India to lower the threat of a nuclear or conventional war in the region.

"India and Pakistan should elaborate and enforce a strategic restraint regime so that the confidence between the two countries, which are now nuclear powers, should be enhanced," said Mr. Khan.

Both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998 that raised fears another war between the two South Asian nations could lead to a nuclear exchange.