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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 June, 2004, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
India-Pakistan push for security
Pakistani Hatf V missile launch
Pakistan test-fired a nuclear-capable missile three weeks ago
India and Pakistan have begun their first-ever dialogue to discuss each other's nuclear policy, six years after the two carried out weapons tests.

The talks are aimed at building mutual trust that could reduce the risk of nuclear conflict.

After a two-hour meeting in Delhi, the two sides said the talks were cordial and constructive, adding that they were looking to advance the peace process.

A second round of discussions is due to be held on Sunday.

A Pakistani delegation headed by foreign ministry official Tariq Usman Haider travelled to Delhi for the talks.

The Indian delegation is headed by Mr Haider's counterpart from the Indian foreign ministry, Sheel Kant Sharma.

Risk reduction

A joint statement issued after the first round of talks said the two sides had "identified areas of convergence".

"They also exchanged views on their respective security concepts and nuclear doctrines, and agreed to elaborate and work towards the confidence-building measures," the statement said.

The region has lived with the threat of nuclear war since India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

And neither side has developed the technology to recall a nuclear-tipped missile fired in error.

Risk reduction will be a main topic of these talks, including the possible establishment of a formal communications system and a permanently manned communications centre to prevent such accidents from occurring.

A mutual reduction in nuclear arsenals is another subject for discussion, and Indian negotiators might also press their Pakistan counterparts to make a commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons, matching Delhi's non-aggression pledge.

Testing

The BBC's Nick Bryant in Delhi says that with the peace process still in its infancy and with a recent change of government in Delhi, the mood of these talks will also be examined carefully.

Both sides will be feeling each other out, as one analyst put it, ahead of further discussions on more contentious points of divergence.

Most notable of these is Kashmir, which the two countries' foreign ministers will discuss on 27-28 June.

The two countries have twice veered close to war since the 1998 tests - over Kashmir in 1999 and again in 2002.

Ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours have thawed since last year's peace initiatives between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

A number of confidence-building measures have been introduced over the past year, including a resumption of rail, air and bus links and a strengthening of diplomatic ties.

The Indian cricket team also toured Pakistan earlier this year, despite security concerns.




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The BBC's Nick Bryant
"Risk reduction will be the main topic of the talks"



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