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Sunday, October 18, 1998 Published at 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK

World: South Asia

India and Pakistan's nuclear pledge

Both parties believe it is important to keep dialogue open

Pakistan and India ended their first peace talks since their tit-for-tat nuclear tests earlier this year by agreeing to work on confidence-building measures to reduce the risk of conflict.

Owen Bennet-Jones - little progress made
But the two sides failed to make any specific agreements on their nuclear capability. BBC Islamabad correspondent Owen Bennet-Jones says there was not even agreement on apparently uncontroversial proposals, like developing secure and fail-safe communications links for the two sides' military and political leaderships.

[ image:  ]
Negotiators will meet again in the Indian capital, Delhi, next February, to discuss ways of promoting peace.

"Both sides underscored their commitment to reduce the risk of a conflict by building mutual confidence in the nuclear and conventional fields," said a joint statement issued after three days of talks in Islamabad.

The talks - the first for more than a year - were agreed by the two Prime Ministers after world concern about the region becoming a nuclear flashpoint in the wake of nuclear tests by the two rivals in May.

Talking goes on over Kashmir

The statement also said the Delhi talks would cover their 50-year-old dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, cause of two of the three wars between them since independence from Britain in 1947.

Owen Bennett-Jones: Any improvement in relations depends on Kashmir
It appears there was little movement on the dispute, which Pakistan says is the key to resolving decades of hostility and mistrust.

"The two sides reiterated their respective positions," the statement said. It did not elaborate.

The Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Shamshad Ahmad, said it was always unrealistic to expect much progress on so complicated an issue. But he also said that progress on Kashmir will be necessary if the two countries are to be able to move forward in other areas.

Shamshad Ahmad: "Whole world watching"
"The whole world is watching the situation, and they believe that Kashmir today is a nuclear flashpoint, and unless both India and Pakistan can do something to reach an agreement on this issue to resolve this problem, in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, it will be very difficult to normalise the situation in this region," Mr Ahmad said.

[ image: Borderline relations: Two sides meet at the frontier]
Borderline relations: Two sides meet at the frontier
Despite the lack or progress on Kashmir, the Indian Foreign Secretary, K Ragunath, said that there was no question of the two sides having reached a total deadlock.

"We have agreed that the discussion on this subject of Jammu and Kashmir will be a part of a composite dialogue process," Mr Raganuth said.

Long-running dispute

Islamabad says that Kashmir should have become part of Pakistan during partition 50 years ago.

But India argues that Kashmir is an integral part of its territory and has accused Pakistan of sponsoring a separatist campaign in Indian Kashmir.

Relations between the two countries sank to a new low following nuclear weapons tests in May.

India and Pakistan are both anxious to see the lifting of economic sanctions imposed in the wake of the nuclear tests and have moved towards agreeing to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

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