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India, Pakistan Vow to Continue Peace Dialogue    - 2004-09-08

India and Pakistan have expressed confidence that their ongoing dialogue will lead to a peaceful settlement of their disputes. The foreign ministers of the two countries held talks earlier this week in the Indian capital.

In a joint statement, India and Pakistan said they were satisfied at the progress made in a peace dialogue that began in January.

The statement was issued two days after foreign ministers of the two countries completed talks in New Delhi to review the dialogue's progress.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna says the countries are determined to carry the peace process forward.

"The Ministers reiterated the confidence that the composite dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues including Jammu and Kashmir," said Navtej Sarna. "They agreed to continue with the serious and sustained dialogue to find a peaceful negotiated final settlement"

The two countries have set out a timetable for further talks on issues ranging from trade to transportation links to military and nuclear confidence-building measures.

The two will also discuss disengagement and redeployment of their troops on the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battlefield.

Mr. Sarna says for the first time, India and Pakistan will issue tourist visas to each others' citizens. Travel between the two countries is currently allowed, but only for business, visiting relatives and the like.

Officials say they will discuss the possibility of starting a bus service between the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir - a long-standing demand of the people of the divided region.

The recently concluded talks failed to achieve a breakthrough on Kashmir, the divided territory that has embittered relations between the two countries for decades and triggered two of their three wars. India claims all of Kashmir, while Pakistan wants Kashmiris to decide their own future.

India says it wants the two countries to make progress on all bilateral issues simultaneously, but Pakistan says priority must be given to settling the Kashmir dispute.

But for the time being, the dialogue remains on track, raising hopes that the thaw in relations between the nuclear-capable South Asian rivals will continue.