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Friday, July 31, 1998 Published at 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK

No progress for India Pakistan dialogue

First meeting of the two leaders since the nuclear crisis

Pakistan has said there has been no progress in attempts to re-start a stalled dialogue with India over issues dividing the two countries.

The BBC's Daniel Lak: "Hopes of dialogue faded considerably"
"The Pakistan-India dialogue remains stalemated and no progress has been made in Colombo," Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Tariq Altaf said following direct talks between the leaders of the two countries.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart, Atal Behari Vajpayee met on the fringes of a three-day South Asian summit in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. It was their first meeting since their controversial nuclear tests in May.

Pakistan said that India refused to give priority to what it calls the two most pressing issues - the dispute over Kashmir and peace and security on the sub-continent.

[ image: It was the first meeting in almost a year]
It was the first meeting in almost a year
The two countries reached an agreement on setting an agenda for dialogue in June 1997. Pakistan claims it stipulates that the issues of Kashmir and security must be given special attention.

"In keeping with the requirements of the security situation resulting from the nuclearisation of South Asia, these [issues] must be specifically and substantially dealt with on a priority basis," the Pakistani foreign spokesman said.

India, on the other hand, has taken the view that dialogue between the two countries must be comprehensive and cover a range of issues like trade, terrorism and the granting of visas.

The BBC India correspondent, Daniel Lak, says that it may seem like a dispute over definitions, but both sides are sticking to the positions that caused their dialogue to break down last year.

However, both countries have said that they have not given up on the dialogue.

"Pakistan desires to hold urgent, meaningful and result-oriented dialogue with India. It will remain ready to enter into such negotiations whenever India is willing to do so," the Pakistani spokesman said.

An Indian statement said: "We would like to commence the dialogue process with Pakistan on the basis of the broad-based and composite approach outlined ... accordingly we will continue our effort to get this dialogue process underway at the earliest."

There are plans for the two prime ministers to meet in September at a non-aligned movement summit in South Africa, but no contact is expected before then.

Our correspondent says that hopes of a dialogue between the world's two newest nuclear armed states have faded considerably.

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