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Aziz expects little headway in talks

Colombo, November 22
A reduction of troops by India in Kashmir had helped reduce tension, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said today, but added he did not expect this to lead to a major breakthrough in talks with Indian leaders this week.

In Colombo ahead of his first official visit to India, Aziz told Reuters in an interview he was encouraged by progress in talks with India over the Kashmir issue, but said any permanent solution was likely some way off.

“I think the fact that India has started to reduce its troops is welcome. This is from one particular area and we hope that this process will continue, particularly in the urban areas, where there’s a large concentration of troops,” Mr Aziz said.Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said Pakistan might be willing to drop its plebiscite demand and last month made new proposals, saying Kashmir could be demilitarised and placed under UN control, put under joint control or even given independence.

But Musharraf says India must also show flexibility.

Aziz said he did not expect a major breakthrough in talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.“Pakistan’s stand is very consistent. We don’t change our stand every time we take a trip to a country,” Aziz said. “This is part of a process. I don’t think we are looking at one trip to change everything, but I think it’s a step-by-step process.” “We have to move our discussions between India and Pakistan from strictly the tactical level to the strategic level, and that’s how we can look at solutions which will find a sustainable end result,” he said.

Responding to India’s warning last week to the USA that new American arms sales to Pakistan could hurt the dialogue between South Asia’s two nuclear-armed rivals, Mr Aziz said arms were vital to hopes of peace.

“If we want to promote sustainable peace, then every country should have the right to acquire weapons for their own defence,” he said. — Reuters

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