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Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 15:13 UK

Rivals sign prisoner access deal

India and Pakistan flags
Talks have made little headway on Kashmir

India and Pakistan have signed an accord granting greater access to prisoners in each other's jails.

The deal came after two days of talks in Islamabad - the first since a new civilian government took over in Pakistan earlier this year.

Officials were reviewing peace moves which were suspended last year after political instability in Pakistan. The sides agreed to meet again in July.

Four years of talks have made little headway on key issues such as Kashmir.

The nuclear-armed neighbours both claim the Muslim-majority Himalayan territory in its entirety. They came close to war following an attack on India's parliament in December 2001.

So far talks have produced a number of confidence building measures, such as transport links and nuclear safeguards.

'Spirit of co-operation'

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee met President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday, before talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Pranab Mukherjee in Pakistan
Mr Mukherjee was visiting Islamabad after many months

At a news conference at the end of the visit, Mr Mukherjee said the meetings had been a success.

While conceding there was a lot of ground to cover, he said he was heartened by the eagerness of Pakistan's leadership to forge a closer relationship with India.

Mr Qureshi said it was in the "common interest" to continue dialogue and that it had benefited people in both countries.

But he added that progress needed to be made on resolving the dispute over Kashmir.

Analysts believe the dialogue was more of a reconnaissance mission to gauge the new Pakistani government's policy towards India.

Although little progress has been made on the status of the Muslim majority region of Kashmir, which is divided between the two states, relations have improved.

President Pervez Musharraf has floated some new proposals on Kashmir, and he also reduced the infiltration of Islamist militants from Pakistan, who are fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

The Indians have often blamed these militants for attacks within their country, but they did not do so after recent bombings in the city of Jaipur.

Truce 'breaches'

Analysts say the newly elected government is likely to carry on the precedent set by Mr Musharraf, but rifts within Pakistan's new coalition suggest further political instability, and may hinder progress.

Violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir has reduced markedly since a 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan.

But recent firing incidents at the Line of Control and rare allegations of ceasefire breaches underline how fragile the peace is.

In the past week India's army has twice accused Pakistani troops of firing across the de facto border.

Pakistan's army says allegations its troops breached the ceasefire are baseless.



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