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Last Updated: Monday, 5 May, 2003, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Pakistan states nuclear position

The Pakistani Government says it would get rid of its nuclear arsenal if India were prepared to the same.

If India is ready to denuclearise, we would be happy to denuclearise - but it will have to be mutual
Aziz Ahmed Khan

Pakistan would be "happy" to take such steps, foreign ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan told journalists in Islamabad.

He was speaking as Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali was preparing to host talks with Pakistan's political parties to devise a joint strategy for a possible dialogue with India.

On Friday the two sides said they would re-establish full diplomatic relations, in what is being seen as a significant first step towards peace.

Pakistani Shaheen missile
Conciliatory moves on both sides have earned global praise

"As far as Pakistan is concerned, if India is ready to denuclearise, we would be happy to denuclearise," Mr Khan said on Monday, the Associated Press news agency reports.

"But it will have to be mutual."

It is nearly five years since India, and then Pakistan, carried out nuclear tests in the face of international opposition.

Mr Khan said Pakistan had always supported the idea of making South Asia a nuclear-free zone.

"Our position has been that we were forced into the situation because of Indian nuclear ambitions," he said.

Correspondents point out that India has justified possessing nuclear powers not just in case of conflict with Pakistan, but also as a deterrent to China.

Careful planning

Earlier Mr Khan said Pakistan had had a "positive response" from Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee after Mr Jamali invited him to Islamabad for talks.

Last Friday, Mr Vajpayee said that careful planning was needed before any meeting took place.

Pakistani soldiers [left] with Indian soldiers [right] lower flags at the countries' border
The rivals have been pressured by the US to ease the tension

There have been several moves by leaders in both countries recently to try to normalise relations after they came to the brink of war last year over Kashmir.

Mr Jamali has also indicated that he is planning to announce measures aimed at creating a favourable atmosphere for resuming normal talks with India.

He said he was considering convening a special sitting of the Pakistani parliament - which is not in session - to discuss the matter.

"It is my duty to consult all political parties and I hope that we can reach a positive conclusion," he said.

In a separate development, a bipartisan group of Pakistan parliamentarians is to visit India this week to promote peace and friendship.

The visit is not an official initiative, but in a changed atmosphere the move is also being supported by Islamabad.

The moves by India and Pakistan come as US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, is scheduled to visit Islamabad and Delhi this week.

America has been concerned over the tension between the two countries and is believed to have put pressure on the two leaders to begin engaging each other.

Cautious approach

Last week, however, Mr Vajpayee said there would be no role for any "third-party" to mediate in the Kashmir dispute, rebuffing a long-standing demand of Pakistan.

The emphasis now seems to be on a more graded and cautious approach, with both Delhi and Islamabad apparently agreeing on initiating official level discussions first, ahead of a possible meeting of the two prime ministers later this year.

Diplomatic standoff
Dec 2001: India recalls its envoy after parliament attack

May 2002: Pakistan envoy expelled after attack on Indian army camp

Feb 2003: Deputy ambassadors of both countries expelled after a row over Kashmiri separatist funding

The diplomatic moves marked a dramatic change in atmosphere after a long period of heightened tension that saw the US leading outside attempts to prevent war breaking out.

India reacted with fury after armed gunmen attacked the federal parliament in Delhi in December, 2001.

It blamed the attack on Pakistan-based militants it said were supported by the government in Islamabad.

Pakistan denied the accusation.

The ensuing months saw India deploy huge numbers of troops along the common border, with Pakistan responding in kind.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

Meanwhile, fresh violence has broken out in Indian-administered Kashmir.

One person has been killed and 20 injured when militants lobbed a hand-grenade in the district of Doda.

And six people including a politician belonging to the opposition National Conference were injured in an explosion in the district of Ganderbal.

Police said an explosive device was planted in the car in which he was travelling.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Zaffar Abbas
"I don't think this is a new or a surprise move"




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