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'Historic day' for India, Pakistan


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Musharraf addresses the U.N. assembly.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The leaders of India and Pakistan have held their first meeting together which they hailed afterwards as a "historic day."

At the end of the one-on-one talks in New York on Friday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement calling for the pursuit of peace in Kashmir and consideration of a gas pipeline between the two countries.

The statement, which came after the leaders met on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly debate, said the talks were "held in a constructive and frank spirit."

The nuclear rivals reiterated their commitment to further talks to restore normal relations between Pakistan and India, and to explore options for a negotiated settlement in the disputed territory of Kashmir -- the top issue that has kept both countries at loggerheads for decades.

Ever since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, India and Pakistan have been bitter rivals. During the last five decades they have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, which is divided by the "Line of Control."

On Friday, the leaders said they plan to pursue "confidence-building measures" as they move forward in pursuing peace.

"The possibility of a gas pipeline via Pakistan to India was also discussed," said Musharraf, reading the statement. He said this would contribute to the prosperity of both nations.

Musharraf, speaking on his own behalf, thanked Singh for allowing him to read out the joint statement and said "I hope that this augurs well for the future of Indo-Pakistan relations."

Singh, saying it was a "privilege" to meet his counterpart, said, "I sincerely believe that today is a historic day."

He said that "before I embarked on this journey, people asked me what were your expectations of meeting President Musharraf. And I said to them before I left Delhi that this is an essay in mutual comprehension."

Singh said "we have made a new beginning and I feel confident that despite difficulties along the way I and President Musharraf will work and succeed in writing a new chapter in the history of our two countries."

Each man, coincidentally, was born in the other's country.

Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that before the meeting, Musharraf gave some gifts to Singh -- a painting of the school where the Indian prime minister studied, a school report card, and a photo album with pictures of old friends.

Musharraf was wearing a dark suit and tie and Singh was clad in a turban and traditional Indian-style dress.

Both men were accompanied by key aides and members of their governments.

CNN Producer Jonathan Wald contributed to this report


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