India-Pakistan: step toward peace

Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers today begin two days of talks in New Delhi on divisive issues including Kashmir, as the South Asian neighbors seek to end five decades of hostility that has led to three wars. The meeting between Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri is the first since India's Congress party-led alliance came to power in May. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf this month. The India-Pakistan conflict has thwarted trade and diverted spending to armaments, hindering efforts to spur economic growth in a region that is home to half the world's poor. The nuclear- armed rivals came close to a fourth war in 2002 after India accused Pakistan of backing a Kashmiri rebel attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. ``The peace process has become irreversible,'' said Rashid Ahmad Khan, senior research fellow at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute in Islamabad. ``The meeting may not see a dramatic breakthrough, but it will take the peace process forward.'' India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they became independent nations in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, a Himalayan region divided between them and claimed in full by both. Pakistan denies it sponsors terrorism, saying it only provides moral support to what it calls a freedom struggle against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir. A 15-year insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim- majority state, has killed at least 50,000 people. The Indian government says Pakistan is failing to fulfill promises to shut terrorist training camps and stop rebels crossing into Indian Kashmir, informs Bloomberg. According to Daily Times, This August, both Pakistan and India celebrated 57 years of their independence. Fifty-seven years is a long period in which we have made impressive strides in nation building in our respective countries. Both our nations are responsible nuclear-weapon states and their nuclear capabilities, driven by their national imperatives, are a factor of stability. In the community of nations, our two countries have acquired recognition for our important roles. On the world stage, we have cooperated with each other to push social development, an equitable economic order, and fair trade regimes. As the foreign minister of Pakistan, I am glad to say that our country is recognised as a pivotal state in addressing regional and global issues. The founding fathers of our two countries — Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru — started the odyssey for the solution of the Kashmir dispute. But the issue still remains unresolved. Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan agreed Saturday to widen their peace dialogue in talks that focused on eight festering issues, including the decades-old dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated India's commitment to peace with Pakistan. At his first news conference since his Congress party unexpectedly swept to power in May, he said the people of South Asia were "bound together by a shared destiny." The two foreign secretaries will recommend "further deepening and broadening the engagement between the two sides," the statement said. The talks cleared the way for a fresh dialogue between the neighboring countries' foreign ministers. India's External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri are to meet Sunday and Monday in New Delhi, reports ABCNEWS.

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