February 2004 News

Indian Soldiers Have Spent 15 Years Fighting Militants In Kashmir

18 February 2004

New Delhi: The roadmap was finalised by Mr Khokhar and his Indian counterpart, Shashank, who arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday. Mr Shashank said they were starting the talks process 'with sincerity'. 'Things are moving in a positive direction,' he said. Earlier, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in an address to Islamic scholars in the Pakistani capital, said: 'What has been decided is that in May-June there will be a composite level dialogue... soon after Indian elections, and in it the Kashmir issue will be discussed. 'In August a foreign minister- level composite dialogue will take place inshallah [God willing] and after that we will see.' 'Composite dialogue' means the nations will tackle all bilateral issues together. Pakistan had previously demanded Kashmir be tackled before other matters. ROADMAP TIMETABLE March 8 and 9: Talks on Kashmir bus service March 29 and 30: Talks on a bus service between Pakistan's Sindh province and India's Rajasthan state March or April: Border security officials to talk on smuggling and drug trafficking May: Experts discuss nuclear confidence-building measures May or June: Foreign secretaries to discuss Kashmir July: Talks on terrorism and economic co-operation August: Summit between foreign ministers Joint statement: Full text President Musharraf said the peace process was progressing smoothly and he was confident that it would produce results that were acceptable to all sides, particularly the Kashmiri people. The first talks will come after the Indian general election in April, although technical talks on such issues as transport will be held before that. If all goes well, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri and Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha will meet in August. Speaking in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad on Wednesday, Mr Sinha said he hoped there would be a 'new understanding between the two countries'. He said there would be talks to set up two new bus links between the nations, in addition to the current Delhi-Lahore service. Mr Sinha also hoped an Indian consulate could be opened in Karachi and a Pakistani consulate in Bombay (Mumbai). Officials say the two sides will try to resolve some of the relatively minor matters before moving on to the more complicated issue of Kashmir. Kashmiri welcome The BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad says Pakistan also wants talks about what it calls a strategic restraint regime, reducing nuclear and conventional weapons to limit the risk of an arms race and war. This has been mooted before but never pursued. Vajpayee (L) and Musharraf agreed to talks at a summit last month In the past, moves to discuss Kashmir - control of which is the most serious of all the disputes - at the very start of talks has proved a non-starter, BBC correspondents say. Observers believe India and Pakistan have come to the dialogue with a new recognition that the conflict in Kashmir cannot be won by military means. News of the talks was generally welcomed by Kashmiris, although some separatist leaders advised caution. Maulana Abbas Ansari, chairman of Kashmir's main separatist group, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said: 'We welcome the decision of officials of India and Pakistan, but without the participation of the people of Kashmir such talks will not yield any results.' Tens of thousands of people have died in the disputed territory since militants took up arms against Indian rule in 1989. The Islamabad meetings are the culmination of a thaw which began last April. The decision to hold talks was announced after President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met on the fringes of a regional summit in Islamabad last month.


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