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India, Pakistan Extend Peace Talks

Associated Press
Sunday, September 5, 2004; Page A30

NEW DELHI, Sept. 4 -- India and Pakistan agreed Saturday to widen peace talks that focus on eight festering issues, including the decades-old dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated his country's commitment to peace with Pakistan. At his first news conference since his Congress party unexpectedly swept to power in May, he said the people of South Asia were "bound together by a shared destiny."

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Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said settling the five-decade conflict over Kashmir is the key to peace.

In a joint statement, the two rival South Asian nations said that the talks between India's foreign secretary, Shyam Saran, and his Pakistani counterpart, Riaz Khokhar, were productive.

The talks cleared the way for a new dialogue between the neighboring countries' foreign ministers. India's external affairs minister, Natwar Singh, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri are to meet Sunday and Monday in New Delhi.

India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, said he was committed to "the peace process and to carrying forward the dialogue process."

India and Pakistan have gone to war twice over Kashmir, which is divided between the two countries and which both claim in its entirety. India has long accused Pakistan of arming and training Islamic militant groups that cross to the Indian side of Kashmir. Pakistan has denied giving material help to the militants.

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