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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 15:22 GMT
Talks and tour occupy India-Pakistan press
Indian & Pakistani officials begin historic talks in Islamabad
Hoping for a fresh start for dialogue

Newspapers in India and Pakistan are dominated by the talks which opened in Islamabad on Monday between officials from the two countries.

Commentators also see symbolic significance in India's decision to allow the national cricket team to embark next month on their first full tour of Pakistan since 1989.

Editorials in Pakistan are divided on the talks.

The Islamabad-based Khabrain is optimistic, seeing the talks and the tour as vindication of Pakistan's approach.

The Indian government's announcement that the Indian cricket team is to visit Pakistan will certainly have a positive effect on the dialogue being resumed today
Express (Pakistan)

"The Indian government's steps are welcome," it says, "because the present Indian leadership have realised for the first time that peace is possible only through a process of dialogue, towards which Pakistan has already taken numerous unilateral steps."

The Peshawar daily Express agrees.

"The Indian government's announcement that the Indian cricket team is to visit Pakistan will certainly have a positive effect on the dialogue being resumed today," it believes.

'Core issue'

Back in Islamabad, Jang is more cautious, urging the Pakistani government to keep the public fully informed of developments on "the core issue" - Kashmir.

"The government must consult all political forces and take the various Kashmiri schools of thought into its confidence," it declares.

"It must also apprise them of all possible solutions that may come under discussion."

The pro-Muslim League daily Nawa-i-waqt fears that Pakistan's negotiating position has been weakened by the US-led war on terror.

India has never been sincere about resolving disputes or taken a single step to prove it is sincere about settling the core issue of Kashmir
Ausaf (Pakistan)

"Pakistan used to have two strong negotiating levers - Jihad Kashmir and the nuclear missile programme - which were a cause of constant fear not only for India but also for its patron, the US," it recalls.

"But our government failed to assess the US's intentions correctly after 9/11 and we lost these two levers. Our position has become weaker."

Suspicion

The pro-Islamist Ausaf voices outright suspicion of India's motives.

"India has never been sincere about resolving disputes or taken a single step to prove it is sincere about settling the core issue of Kashmir," it says.

"India wants a solution to the issue on its own terms, and our government's steps are helping India's designs," it adds.

Indian editorial opinion highlights nuclear proliferation, following the confession by top Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that he had sold nuclear secrets abroad.

An editorial in the Delhi-based Rashtriya Sahara says that if the Islamabad talks are to discuss Kashmir at Pakistan's request, it is equally likely that proliferation will also feature.

"In all probability, the dangerous problem of nuclear proliferation will be included on the agenda for the talks. This will help send out a message to the world about Pakistan's strong stand on the matter," it believes.

An English game will bring together two people the British divided
The Telegraph (India)

"If India is made to feel uncomfortable on Kashmir, Pakistan's discomfiture because of nuclear smuggling will be much greater," it adds.

Cricket diplomacy

Both Indian and Pakistani commentators focus on the cricket tour, although they disagree among themselves.

In Calcutta, The Telegraph welcomes the political aspect of the event.

Even if results on the pitch do not go the way of captain Sourav Ganguly, it believes Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee "is in a win-win situation".

"Ganguly and his boys will have the rare satisfaction, if not honour, of knowing that they played more than cricket for India - the bat and ball and a piece of green might succeed where diplomats have failed," it suggests.

Cricketers are not Ministry of External Affairs officials in whites, attractive though the option looks considering how diligently dour our diplomats often are
The Statesman (India)

"An English game will bring together two people the British divided."

But in the same city, The Statesman is less charitable towards the government.

"Cricketers are not Ministry of External Affairs officials in whites, attractive though the option looks considering how diligently dour our diplomats often are," it comments.

"Here's hoping for a safe tour for the players, and also that they read the sport better than their government read the politics."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
US hails Kashmir 'roadmap' talks
19 Feb 04  |  South Asia
Peace 'roadmap' for S Asia rivals
18 Feb 04  |  South Asia


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