Neighbours give ground to discuss Kashmir question

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INDIA AND Pakistan discussed the nuclear fate of South Asia yesterday with all the urgency of a symposium on daffodils.

The talks between senior foreign ministry officials in Margalla Hills above Islamabad ended with no agreement beyond a decision to try again some time in the first half of February in Delhi.

These were the first high-level talks between the squabbling nuclear neighbours since the Indian atomic tests in the Rajasthani desert stunned the world in May. In June, Pakistan staged nuclear tests of its own.

Intense international pressure, including economic sanctions, has forced the two nations to instigate a "composite and integrated dialogue process". In other words, not only peace and security, but also the Kashmir issue.

Both sides have had to compromise even to raise the Kashmir question. India insists that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian Union. Pakistan maintains it is a "disputed territory" whose fate must be determined by third-party mediation.

After Saturday's talks their joint statement said only that "the two sides reiterated their respective positions" on Kashmir. Every day, soldiers and civilians die in clashes on the divide between the two states.

Meanwhile, sanctions have put extreme pressure on the two sides to reach an accord.The Indian representative, K Raghunath, said ideas about "building a security architecture" were traded. But nuclear security still remains at the construction site stage.