India and Pakistan have agreed to begin a dialogue next month that the two sides believe could settle their dispute over the Kashmir region — a flashpoint between the two nuclear-armed rivals, Reuters reported today (see GSN, Jan. 5).
“To carry the process forward, the president of Pakistan and the prime minister of India have agreed to commence the process of composite dialogue in February 2004,” Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha said today, reading from a joint statement. “The two leaders are confident that the resumption of the composite dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues including Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
The agreement was reached during a bilateral meeting yesterday between Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of a summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation held in Islamabad. Sinha said yesterday that details for the dialogue still needed to be completed (Reuters, Jan. 6).
In addition, Musharraf “reassured” Vajpayee during their meeting that “he will not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner,” according to the joint statement (BBC News, Jan. 6).
India has repeatedly called on Pakistan to prevent crossborder terrorism in the Kashmir region. Several Pakistani-based Kashmiri militant groups have criticized the announced peace dialogue.
A spokesman for the banned group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has been linked to a failed assassination attempt against Musharraf last month, accused Musharraf of “betraying Kashmiris.”
“He must remember Kashmiris can turn their back on Pakistan and launch a struggle for a separate homeland,” Khalil Ahmed Naqshbandi said (Watson/Zaidi, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 6).