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India, Pakistan break ice at talks


Neighbors agree to free fishermen, continue negotiations

In this story:

April 9, 1997
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EST (1600 GMT)

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India and Pakistan held upbeat peace talks on Wednesday, agreeing to continue negotiations on problems that have brought their countries to war three times.

In a goodwill gesture, the Asian neighbors agreed to free several hundred fishermen held by the countries for illegally fishing in each other's waters.

The foreign ministers of both nations decided the fishermen would be released as part of an effort to address humanitarian issues dividing the longtime rivals, Indian officials said.

Kashmir tops list of issues

Other issues at stake include trade and cultural ties, but the thorniest problem is the disputed region of Kashmir.

Pakistan says Kashmir is the core of their problem and must be addressed first. India says because Kashmir is the toughest issue, it should be dealt with later so progress can be made on easier matters. India controls two-thirds of Kashmir and Pakistan the rest.

Map of area

More than 20,000 people have died in separatist conflict in the region since armed insurgency began in 1989.

India has accused Pakistan of providing material aid to separatist militants, a charge Pakistan denies.

India recently held elections in Jammu and Kashmir state, but violence continues unabated.

Both leaders pleased

Overall, both leaders said they were pleased with the outcome of their talks.

"It was our first one-to-one meeting, and I am very satisfied with it," Pakistani Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan told reporters after a 90-minute breakfast meeting in New Delhi with his Indian counterpart, Inder Kumar Gujral.

"He represents the views of both of us. I endorse everything that he said," said Gujral, who had hugged the visiting minister when he arrived for the talks at a former prince's palace, now used for official functions and banquets.

The meeting between Gujral and Khan marked the first talks since negotiations resumed last month after a three-year hiatus marred by diplomatic sniping and an insurgency in divided Kashmir.

"They were briefly able to touch on a number of important issues," an Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "They both have given clear directions to their foreign secretaries to maintain the tempo of the ongoing dialogue."

The two nations, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947, resumed high-level talks last month when their foreign secretaries -- the highest-ranking civil servants in the foreign ministries -- held four days of negotiations.

Gujral and Khan said they hoped the foreign secretaries would hold another round of talks in Islamabad, Pakistan, before a summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation set for May 12-14 in the Maldives capital, Male.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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