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Saturday, 26 January, 2002, 14:57 GMT
Musharraf sends peace message to Delhi
Musharraf greets Annan
Many visitors have urged Pakistan to push for peace
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said his government is ready to engage in talks with India aimed at reducing tensions between the two countries.

He sent the offer in a message to Prime Minister AB Vajpayee on the occasion of India's Republic Day on Saturday.

I'd like to reiterate our readiness to engage in a serious and sustained dialogue

President Musharraf

In his message, General Musharraf extended "sincere felicitations" to the Indian prime minister, his government, and the people of India.

President Musharraf said he wanted Pakistan and India to be good neighbours.

Agni on parade in Delhi
India's missile test raised urgency
"I would like to reiterate our readiness to engage in a serious and sustained dialogue with India to commence together a journey of peace and progress," he wrote.

The message comes a day after India tested a model of its nuclear-capable ballistic missile Agni off its eastern coast.

The version tested on Friday has a range of around 700 kilometres, suggesting it is designed to hit strategic targets in Pakistan.

Nuclear shadow

India and Pakistan have deployed large military forces along their mutual borders and along the Line of Control dividing the disputed region of Kashmir for several weeks.

The current tensions began after India accused Pakistan of complicity in an attack by gunmen on the Indian Parliament in December.

Kashmiris demonstrate in Rawalpindi
Musharraf faces domestic pressure on Kashmir
Pakistan denied the allegation, condemned the attack and has cracked down on militant Islamists including groups accused by India of having carried out the raid.

The two neighbours have gone to war several times and there are fears that a new conflict could escalate from small incidents.

Both countries are nuclear-armed and the danger of a nuclear exchange has seen a stream of foreign visitors trying to calm passions on the two sides.

Just when tensions appeared to be abating, India's test-launch of a short-range ballistic missile has deepened anxieties within and beyond the region.

President Musharraf's offer to hold talks would, against that backdrop, be widely welcomed.

However, underscoring Islamabad's determination not to buckle under pressure, its military spokesman assured his countrymen that Pakistan's strategic deterrence was "in place".

See also:

26 Jan 02 | South Asia
India spends Republic Day on alert
26 Jan 02 | South Asia
Powell laments India missile test
24 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan and India 'must talk'
25 Jan 02 | South Asia
South Asia's high nuclear stakes
23 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan divided over Kashmir policy
23 Jan 02 | South Asia
Calcutta suspects rounded up
21 Jan 02 | South Asia
India keeps pressure on Pakistan
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf on a tightrope
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