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Latest news Friday, 31 July, 1998, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
No progress for India Pakistan dialogue
Pakistani and Indian prime ministers meet at Saarc summit
Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif and Indian counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee
By Daniel Lak, in Colombo:

Attempts to restart a stalled process of dialogue between India and Pakistan have failed, despite a series of meetings between senior officials and leaders at a regional summit in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

Daniel Lak
Daniel Lak
The prime ministers of both countries met this week for the first time since the series of nuclear test explosions in May, first by India, then by Pakistan.

But an agenda for talks that might defuse regional tensions and lead to better relations has proved in itself to be a point of contention.

Arguing over the agenda

For more than a year now, India and Pakistan have not spoken seriously about the many issues that divide them. Instead, they have argued about the agenda for talks and what priority to give various disputes.

This series of meetings in Colombo has not moved the process on at all. A Pakistani spokesman said there had been no progress. India replied that Pakistan was delaying the dialogue while it tried to build up international opinion behind its position.

The Pakistanis sounded pessimistic about the chances for further talks, although they said diplomatic contacts would continue.

The Indians said eventually Islamabad would come to the table.

'Dialogue of the deaf'

Inauguration ceremony of the Saarch summit
The region hopes for rapprochement
An Indian official also denied that the nuclear weapons tests in May made any substantial difference to the security scenario in the subcontinent, or that the region was any more dangerous today than it had been before the tests - Pakistan took the opposite stance.

The two countries have identified eight topics to discuss whenever they get around to talking, but they differ on how to go about that. Until this seemingly semantic dispute can be settled, the process of lowering tensions in South Asia will remain a dialogue of the deaf.

Other regional countries can be forgiven for feeling uneasy that the world's two newest, openly nuclear-weapons states cannot even seem to make a start towards rapprochement.

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Daniel Lak: "Hopes of dialogue faded"
See also:

25 Jun 98 | Analysis
31 Jul 98 | South Asia
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