India, Pakistan begin third round of peace talks
NEW DELHI, Jan 17 (AFP): The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan Tuesday began a new round of peace talks aimed at narrowing their differences over their half-century old dispute over Kashmir.
The two-day talks between India's Shyam Saran and Pakistan's Riaz Mohammed Khan mark the third round since a January 2004 agreement to resume negotiations after a tense military standoff four years ago.
The two foreign secretaries shook hands ahead of the talks without making any comments at New Delhi's ornate Hyderabad House, the meeting venue.
Khan, who arrived in the capital late Monday, told reporters that Pakistan would "see where we stand and how to push the peace process forward," the Press Trust of India news agency said.
An Indian official said Monday that India would put "fresh ideas" on the table during talks to move the process forward.
One of the proposals India will put forward would be extending a 12 kilometer (7.5 mile) rail link between Khokhrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province to Munnabao in India's western state of Rajasthan, an official said.
"The idea is to allow more pilgrims to visit Ajmer," the official, who did not want to be identified, said.
He was referring to a shrine of a 13th century Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, extremely popular among devotees of all faiths. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf visited the shrine during a visit to India last April.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said the launch of new transport links between India and Pakistan and the two zones of Kashmir would be discussed.
India says such confidence-building measures are needed because Pakistan has not kept a promise to stop violence by Islamic militants based in Pakistani-held territory who are battling New Delhi's rule in Kashmir.
Islamabad has asked New Delhi to cut troop levels in Kashmir, but India has repeatedly refused to make concessions in the troubled region until what it says is cross-border violence by militants from Pakistan ceases.