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India, Pakistan meet but no summit set

India says Musharraf was more interested in talking to the media about Kashmir than about any other peace initiatives
India says Musharraf was more interested in talking to the media about Kashmir than about any other peace initiatives  


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- India and Pakistan had their first high-level contacts Friday since the collapse of the summit last month in Agra, India over the issue of Kashmir.

Indian foreign secretary, Chokoila Iyer, and Pakistani foreign secretary, Inamul Haq, met for about an hour on the sidelines of a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) forum in Sri Lanka.

"We had a very useful exchange of views on all aspects of bilateral issues," Iyer said. "We felt the need to build our relationship on the basis of peace, cooperation and friendship."

Despite the breakdown of the India-Pakistan summit in July, New Delhi accepted Islamabad's invitation to continue discussions in Pakistan at a later date.

Although no date has been set, additional talks are still being discussed.

It was expected that Indian Prime Minister Attal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Gen. Musharraf would meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September. But India has not yet indicated its willingness for a meeting.

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India has been cool towards an early resumption of talks at the highest level because it suspects Pakistan wants to use the occasion for publicizing its views on the dispute over Kashmir.

Indian officials are angry that at the Agra summit, Musharraf was, in their view, more interested in talking to the media about Kashmir than discussing confidence building measures that India has proposed.

Further talks

But both nations have expressed support for diplomatic talks aimed at increasing ties and reducing tension between the two nuclear neighbors. "We agreed the process of dialogue started in Agra last month should continue," Haq said.

"We are looking forward to visit of the prime minister and foreign minister of India. Both sides showed their determination solve their difficulties."

Even with the collapse of talks last month, officials from India and Pakistan attempted to cast the Agra Summit in a positive light despite the fact the talks stalled over the issue of Kashmir.

Vajpayee and Musharraf ended their summit without a joint statement characterizing the event.

Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said he was not "disenchanted" by the slow progress in talks with Pakistan.

Not futile

There were protests in India this week over renewed violence in Kashmir
There were protests in India this week over renewed violence in Kashmir  

At the time, he said the summit could not be seen as a failure and added the exercise was not futile.

"We will pick up the threads from the visit of the president of Pakistan. We will increasingly endeavor to revise the vision of the relationship of peace, friendship and cooperation with Pakistan," Singh said.

The message was much the same from Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar who told reporters that while the end of the summit was "inconclusive, it did not fail."

Sattar said that twice it appeared during the summit that both sides had reached agreement on a joint statement.

He said they finally gave up, but he stopped short of assigning any blame for the failure to reach agreement on how to characterize the talks.

"We hope and we believe that both sides want to proceed based on what was built at Agra," said Sattar.

He said the Agra Summit provided a draft to serve as the basis of future talks.

Lack of sincerity

Sattar said the two leaders discussed a wide range of topics -- including "terrorism" along the line of control in Kashmir.

"This summit has set the tone for future relations with Pakistan," Singh said. "The caravan of peace has continued its march and on some auspicious day it will reach its destination."

Pakistani diplomats accused the Indians of "a lack of sincerity."

Even with Musharraf making Kashmir the focus of the summit, India refused to let the disputed region dominate discussions.

"We do not believe that bilateral relations between India and Pakistan ought to or can be held hostage by any single issue," Singh said.






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