Archrivals India and Pakistan made progress yesterday on two issues that have divided them for years, Kashmir and nuclear weapons, a top Pakistani official said.
For the first time, they agreed to hold bilateral talks on Kashmir, which has been divided by a cease-fire line since 1949, said Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shahryar Khan.
The agreement came after three days of talks in New Delhi led by the countries' foreign secretaries, Mr. Khan and India's J. N. Dixit.
The talks appear to represent a shift by Pakistan, which previously wanted the Kashmiri dispute resolved by the United Nations.
India has long favored the bilateral approach regarding Kashmir, the northern territory in the Himalayas over which the two countries have fought two wars. Border clashes are still routine.
India has long accused Pakistan of arming and training militant groups in Jammu-Kashmir, the Indian-administered area. Although many guerrillas readily admit that, Mr. Khan denied it again yesterday.
"Though our perceptions differ widely, the fact that we have agreed on the need to address this issue is in itself a step forward," he said.
THE two diplomats also "discussed the question of nuclear nonproliferation and elimination of weapons of mass destruction, such as biological weapons and missiles. We have emerged with a better understanding of each other's point of view and shall carry forward our discussions in the next round," Khan told reporters.
Now that Russia and the United States are dismantling their nuclear arsenals, Pakistan and India appear to have become the only enemy nations in the world with the ability to produce nuclear bombs on short notice.
According to a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., India "probably has essentials for 75 to 100 A-bombs that could be deployed quickly." Pakistan, the report says, "has material, and possibly all components, for 15 to 20 undeclared A-bombs that could be deployed quickly."
During the negotiations that ended yesterday, India and Pakistan also signed an agreement against the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons, and a code of conduct regarding diplomats in the two countries.
An Indian diplomat, Rajesh Mittal, was expelled from Pakistan in May on charges of obtaining secret documents. He claimed he had been tortured during his interrogation.
India responded by postponing a meeting of foreign secretaries, which was later rescheduled for this week.