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India, Pakistan Foreign Ministers Hold Talks in New Delhi - 2004-09-05

Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers have ended the first day of peace talks in New Delhi on a satisfactory note.

Before bringing their delegations face to face, Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khursheed Ahmed Kasuri had a one-on-one meeting for more than one hour.

Later India's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, told reporters the talks went well. "The meetings were held in a friendly, cordial, affable and constructive atmosphere," he said.

Mr. Sarna refused to elaborate on the agenda. But Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said that both India's allegations of cross-border militant infiltration into Indian Kashmir and the Kashmir dispute itself were discussed.

"Kashmir is a central issue between India and Pakistan," said Mr. Khan. "It has been discussed frequently. Let us hope that this current phase of engagement between the two countries leads to a just and lasting solution of the Kashmir dispute."

Kashmir remains divided between the two neighbors, who each claim the entire region.

A joint press statement said the two sides reviewed the progress made in the eight meetings held last month. The issues ranged from easing tensions at the Siachen Glacier border region to cultural exchanges between the two nuclear-capable neighbors.

Before the two ministers began their talks they told reporters that improving bilateral relations is crucial for the betterment of the South Asia region. Mr. Kasuri said, "We feel that good relations with India are in the interest of Pakistan and we hope that your (Indian) government thinks likewise."

India's Foreign Minister Singh agreed. "As Mr. Kasuri said, it is in our interest to have peace and a little goodwill in our relationship, and that is our objective at the meeting," he said.

The two ministers are slated to meet again Monday to prepare for a meeting between Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at the United Nations later this month.