Indian foreign minister meets with Musharraf to promote peace

Friday, July 23rd 2004, 6:05 am
By: News On 6

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ India's foreign minister left Pakistan with ``renewed determination'' to improve relations, after an informal meeting with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that delved into all the major issues that have kept these nuclear-armed neighbors in conflict for more than half a century.

Natwar Singh, who stayed on in Islamabad after attending a regional conference earlier this week, met Musharraf in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital, Islamabad, said Indian Embassy spokesman Ramesh Chandra.

``I leave Pakistan with renewed determination to work with Pakistan bilaterally, to normalize our relations and to resolve differences,'' he said in a statement before departing for India. He complimented Pakistan's government and people for its warm welcome and treatment to his delegation during the summit, saying it ``touched us deeply.''

Singh said every issue, including the hot-button dispute over Kashmir, was discussed.

``No aspect of our relationship, including Jammu and Kashmir, was left out of our warm, frank and realistic discussions,'' the statement said, adding that both sides hoped to continue with a peace process that began last year, and intensified after Musharraf met with then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in January on the sidelines of another summit.

The two countries have fought two of three wars over the Himalayan region since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. The region is split between them, but both claim it in its entirety.

More than 65,000 people have died, most of them civilians killed on India's side of the region, since an Islamic insurgency began in 1989. Pakistan accuses India of human rights violations. India says that Pakistan has backs terrorism.

Singh, who arrived here Monday to attend a meeting of foreign ministers from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, arrived in New Delhi later Friday.

The SAARC ministers concluded their talks Wednesday, agreeing to increase cooperation to alleviate poverty and improve economic relations.

Pakistan and India have scheduled a series of meetings for the coming weeks, aimed primarily at building confidence before discussing in depth their dispute over Kashmir.