India and Pakistan agree to hold 'historic' talks over disputed Kashmir

India and Pakistan, on the brink of nuclear war less than two years ago, agreed yesterday to hold peace talks on Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region which has poisoned their relations for more than half a century.

The deal was described as "historic" by Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, after a meeting in Islamabad on Monday with the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was visiting Pakistan for the first time in nearly five years. Talks will begin next month between senior diplomats.

In a joint declaration, Gen eral Musharraf pledged not to permit his country to be used as a haven for terrorism, and Mr Vajpayee promised to seek a solution to the Kashmir dispute. Gone were the usual Pakistani denials that it supports Muslim militants fighting Indian rule in the divided territory, and Indian demands that cross-border infiltration stop before a dialogue can begin.

Any reduction of tension in south Asia will be welcome in a world preoccupied with terrorism, the aftermath of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons - for which Pakistan is accused of bearing major responsibility. General Musharraf was seen as a crucial ally by Washington immediately after the September 2001 attacks on Washington and New York, when he risked domestic outrage to support the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. But since then the Bush administration has become disenchanted by evidence of Pakistan sharing nuclear and missile technology with Iran and North Korea - two of the three members of George Bush's "axis of evil" - and Delhi's claims that Islamabad is an active supporter of terrorism on Indian territory.

Isolated internationally and under threat at home, where he has escaped two assassination attempts in the past month, General Musharraf was effusive about the rapprochement with India. Most details of the negotiations have yet to be worked out, but the Pakistani leader said yesterday: "History has been made. This is a ... good beginning." He praised Mr Vajpayee's vision and statesmanship, a sharp contrast to the tension of 2002, when more than a million men were deployed along the border and the Indian leader spoke of the need for "a decisive battle". General Musharraf promised to meet the threat with "full force".

Militants on both sides could threaten any accord, however. The negotiations were called a "betrayal" by Amanullah Khan, chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, which seeks independence. Syed Salahuddin, head of Hezb-ul Mujahedin, the main Muslim militant group fighting in Kashmir, said operations would continue until India released jailed Kashmiri leaders and withdrew its troops to barracks.

Sceptics will point to the shortlived history of previous reconciliations. In 2001 there was similar talk of a breakthrough after the two leaders met in the Indian city of Agra, only for hopes of improved relations to evaporate almost immediately. Diplomats argue that the previous meeting was almost impromptu, whereas the latest deal has been preceded by careful preparation and a series of goodwill gestures, including a ceasefire in Kashmir which has held for several weeks.

Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, say DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin