Little Pakistan-India Headway Ahead Of Kashmir Talks
27 December 2004
Islamabad: Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan appeared to make little headway in pressing ahead with their slow-moving peace process on Monday and remained far apart on ways to resolve their most contentious dispute over Kashmir. In the first of two days of talks in Islamabad, Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar and his Indian counterpart Shyam Saran resumed talks launched earlier in the year on ways to build confidence about their nuclear and conventional arsenals. They exchanged proposals but agreed these would require further study before any agreement could be reached, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan told a news conference. The officials were to discuss their most intractable issue, the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir, on Tuesday, but India ruled out any quick breakthough in that dispute, which has caused two of the countries' three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. 'If you are looking at an instant solution, or if you are looking at a solution that is visible on the horizon, that is not the case at this point in time,' Saran told a separate briefing. 'Given the complexity of the the situation it is difficult to just sit down and find a solution over the next couple of days.' Saran said India had made further proposals aimed at building confidence between the two countries, for example agreeing that Pakistanis over 65 years of age and those under 12 would be able to obtain visas to visit India at the border. But he responded to Pakistan's call for flexibility over Kashmir by reiterating India's position that the whole of the region is an integral part of its territory. The Islamabad meeting is supposed to come up with a calendar for talks to take the peace process forward next year, but Pakistan has become increasingly frustrated by India's unwillingness to change its position over Kashmir. BROAD PAKISTANI PROPOSALS Islamabad has put forward a broad range of proposals to resolve Kashmir, including demilitarising the territory while a compromise is sought over its status - which could include joint control, some form of U.N. control, or independence. But India has rejected a redrawing of its borders or further division of Kashmir. Pakistani spokesman Khan warned if rigid positions were maintained, 'there would be no movement'. Saran countered by saying if the two sides pushed differences on Kashmir, 'we may not be very successful because our positions are very far apart'. Khan said both sides had stressed the importance of continuity in dialogue and of meetings between leaders - the next expected is between Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz at the South Asian summit in Dhaka next month. The Islamabad talks were overshadowed by a devastating tsunami that hit southern Asia on Sunday, killing more than 6,600 people in India but leaving Pakistan unscathed. Pakistan offered India its help at the start of Monday's talks - a sign that despite differences the two countries have come a long way since going to the brink of war in 2002. Diplomatic ties have been normalised, some rail, road and air links restored and sports ties resumed. A truce along the military line dividing Kashmir has held for more than a year. Some analysts have expressed hopes for agreements in coming weeks on reopening a bus route between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir and on formal notification before missile tests. But last week a senior Pakistani official said the bus talks were bogged down by India's insistence that travellers carry passports - which Pakistan says would be a recognition of Kashmir's division - and said prospects were 'very remote'. He said the Islamabad talks would do no more than set a new date for talks on the missile issue, but should at least be able to finalise agreements on setting up a nuclear hotline between the two foreign secretaries and on upgrading a military hotline.