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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 14:14 GMT
Landmark Kashmir meeting ends
Soldier in Kashmir
It was agreed any solution to the conflict must be non-violent
A landmark conference involving representatives from the Indian and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir has concluded in Kathmandu.

It was one the first times they have come together in an organised forum.

Former diplomats, former military leaders and academics from India and Pakistan took part.

Correspondents say the meeting was a rare event in the Kashmir dispute, and took place as discussions between India and Pakistan proceeded in Islamabad.

Stronger ties

Professor Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, the Italian who organised these talks, said his feelings were of "extreme satisfaction" at their conclusion.

The professor, head of the international peace think-tank Pugwash Conferences, said delegates from different parts of Kashmir and from India and Pakistan had shown great respect to one another.

Delegates at the conference
The talks brought together neighbours who had never met

A joint statement by people from both sides was issued.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says that they agreed that any solution to the 57 year old problem must be entirely non-violent, honourable and feasible.

"But a 57 year old conflict cannot be solved in 57 hours," Professor Cotta-Ramusino said.

They stressed confidence building through stronger economic and social ties.

One working group looked specifically at such measures, including plans for buses across the dividing line.

Shared values

But this was not a policy-making forum, and the meeting did not make any specific recommendations.

Our correspondent says that the most notable thing about the meeting was its positive mood.

Retired generals from Pakistan and India hugged each other while a Hindu woman teacher from Indian Kashmir said breaking the ice was easy because of shared values.

A 57 year old conflict cannot be solved in 57 hours
Professor Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, conference organiser

Kashmiri militant leaders were invited to participate, they did not turn up.

However one sent a paper for deliberation.

Our correspondent says it is not certain how much this positive outcome can give new momentum to Indian and Pakistani leaders as they step up their bilateral diplomacy, but there was consensus that informal talks of this type will go on happening.

Professor Cotta-Ramusino even left open the possibility of his organisation trying to help solve Nepal's own intractable conflict.


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