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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April, 2005, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Press split on India-Pakistan talks
Indian newspapers have hailed progress in peace talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Delhi. Many papers felt agreements to boost trade and transport ties could act as a catalyst for peace.

Indian papers

In Pakistan, there was praise, but much press comment focused on the vexed issue of Kashmir, with some hardline columnists accusing Gen Musharraf of a sell-out.

The front page headlines in the Indian papers said it all.

'Man Of The Match: Musharraf' screamed The Economic Times.

The newspaper carried at least 16 photographs of Gen Musharraf in its 22-page edition.

'Ghost of Agra buried in Delhi', headlined the Hindustan Times, alluding to the failed summit in Agra in July 2001.

The Asian Age cheered 'Forward March in April'.

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'Warm feelings, Firm stands,' said The Times Of India.

On a day when India lost a key one-day cricket match to Pakistan in Delhi and held peace talks with its neighbour, The Indian Express exulted: 'Sunday win for both, one-day win Pak bonus.'

Reflecting the upbeat mood of the two sides, The Telegraph reported that the Indian military band had played the Beatles' I Wanna Hold Your Hand at President APJ Kalam's lunch party for Gen Musharraf.

'Rich harvest'

The Hindustan Times said the outcome of Gen Musharraf's second visit to India was "cheery" and that it held out hope for the future.

"The current visit has yielded no major breakthroughs, but it has provided a rich harvest of small and incremental steps - especially in trade and opening up of the borders - that will eventually aggregate to that big step which will scale the impossible heights that divide India and Pakistan today," the paper said.

Soft borders are clearly the way forward on Kashmir
The Hindu

The newspaper said "more relaxed attitudes towards sovereignty, such as [those] pioneered by the European Union", could help in resolving the disputed issue of Kashmir.

The Hindu said both sides seemed to be comfortable with the "newly emerged shared vocabulary of soft borders".

"Soft borders are clearly the way forward on Kashmir," the newspaper said.

The Economic Times said the decision to bolster trade ties was the highlight of the talks.

"We've done the cricket thing, and talked Kashmir all over again. Now let's get down to business," said the newspaper, devoting an entire page to discuss business opportunities between the two countries.

The Indian Express also said that increased trade would be a "good marker of the health" of bilateral ties.

"At the moment, the balance of trade between the two countries is weighted in India's favour, but this could change substantially as Pakistan's economy registers greater growth through increased trade opportunities," the newspaper said.

"The big job is to shed mutual fears and suspicions."

Delhi's Hindi-language Navbharat Times praised the "positive atmosphere" and said the talks had been held without rancour.

'No change'

In Pakistan, the talks dominated the front pages - with several headlines saying the peace process had moved forward.

But some commentators were critical of Pakistani policy, fearing a raw deal for Kashmiris.

Pakistan has now ruled out the option of matching Indian intransigence with firmness... it seems Islamabad is losing the plot
The Nation

The Urdu-language daily Nawa-i-Waqt - a Lahore-based paper which leads anti-India opinion in Pakistan - was sceptical.

An editorial wondered why Gen Musharraf was bending over backwards to suggest alternatives to the UN resolutions when "no discernable change had taken place in India's attitude, which continues to accuse Pakistan of encouraging cross-border militancy".

It ran a front-page headline of the Indian prime minister's statement against the redrawing of Kashmir's boundaries.

On the other hand, the pro-peace process Urdu-language newspaper, Jang chose to run a headline on the decision to restart a cross-border rail service.

In an editorial, the newspaper praised Gen Musharraf's consistency in seeking peace with India.

Some columnists in the Pakistani vernacular press who are opposed to the peace process said Gen Musharraf's behaviour "was indicative of the Pakistani leadership's low self esteem".

The Nation argued that on the issue of Kashmir, "Pakistan's negotiating position is now weaker".

"Pakistan has now ruled out the option of matching Indian intransigence with firmness... This deviation from our traditional position might have some shadow of justification had there been some sign of Indian reciprocity, but without any, it seems Islamabad is losing the plot."

Peshawar's Pakistan says that President Musharraf's "fresh proposal that Kashmir should be given an independent status will not be acceptable to the people of Pakistan".

Islamabad's commercial paper Khabrain argues that putting the stress on confidence-building measures "is no solution to Kashmir".

"It is a fact that unless steps are taken in the direction of resolving the biggest issue, Kashmir, no trust or friendship can be developed between the two countries."

The Statesman is more upbeat, seeing "a marked change in the attitude of the Indian leadership".

The right thing for President Musharraf is to hold fast to the Kashmir stance - with the promise to think out of the box
Daily Times

"It appears that it too is now fed up with the mutually destructive internecine armed conflict on the sub-continent."

The Urdu-language Ausaf welcomed the Indian announcement of seven new confidence-building measures on Kashmir and wanted both sides to take "bold steps".

"We also support President Musharraf's standpoint, that in today's age disputes can no more be suppressed or delayed. Therefore, it is the duty of the Indian leadership to come forward and play its part in seeking a justifiable solution for Kashmir dispute."

And the Daily Times said the normalisation process was working for Pakistan, boosting its standing in the world.

"The right thing for President Musharraf is to hold fast to the Kashmir stance - with the promise to think out of the box - and move ahead on the confidence-building measures," it said.




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