'Indo-Pak peace talks not to be affected' | world | Hindustan Times
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'Indo-Pak peace talks not to be affected'

The upcoming talks between the foreign secretaries will mark the fifth meeting under composite dialogue framework.

world Updated: Jan 02, 2006 16:18 IST

The recent war of words between India and Pakistan will not affect their peace process and both sides will push efforts to resolve dragging disputes through the next round of the composite dialogue talks, say Pakistani officials and experts at the beginning of the year.

New Delhi, say Pakistani officials, touched off a war of words when it expressed "concern" last week at the spiralling violence in Balochistan and military action there and asked Pakistan to "exercise restraint".

Pakistan's response was swift - it said India's comments were "unwarranted" and amounted to interference in its internal affairs. Islamabad also noted that New Delhi's stand was "contrary" to efforts aimed at creating peace and stability in South Asia.

Despite these hiccups, officials admitted the third round of talks under the composite dialogue would go ahead as scheduled from January 17.

"We (Pakistan and India) will start the third round of the dialogue on January 17 with talks between the foreign secretaries," a senior government official said.

In the two-day talks to be held in New Delhi, both sides will discuss matters related to peace and security, including the nuclear dimension, besides the Kashmir dispute.

"A formal announcement about dates for more talks under the third round is expected shortly," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The meeting of the foreign secretaries will mark the first high-level contact between the two countries in 2006, said the official, adding the recent war of words, "though unfortunate", will not affect the talks schedule.

Experts too believe the talks will go ahead though the recent developments could affect the atmospherics.

Sardar Assef Ahmed, a former foreign minister, said: "This (war of words) has happened after a long time and India should have avoided such statements when both countries are successfully moving ahead with their peace initiative."

Ahmed said such statements could "spoil the atmosphere of dialogue", especially when the media is out to find such stories. "I would suggest both sides should not lose such an opportunity (for peace)."

Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of the Pakistan Senate's foreign affairs committee and secretary general of ruling Pakistan Muslim League, said India's statements were "unwanted".

"We hope India will exercise restraint in issuing such statements in future," he remarked. But he hastened to add that the composite dialogue "will go on and should go on".

The upcoming talks between the foreign secretaries will mark the fifth meeting between the two officials under the composite dialogue framework since 2004.

The January 17 meeting acquires significance in the backdrop of proposals mooted by President Pervez Musharraf to demilitarise and introduce self-governance in the Kashmir region.

These proposals have evoked a positive response from Kashmiri leaders. A three-member delegation from Kashmir, headed by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, is scheduled to reach Pakistan on January 3.

The two countries are also likely to move forward this year on a proposal to demilitarise the Siachen glacier, the world's coldest and highest battlefield.

Experts have also noted that the dialogue process has led to considerable progress in terms of confidence-building measures that have promoted greater interaction between Kashmiri leaders.