Pakistan, India closing in on Kashmir settlement: Kasuri
Apr 20, 2007 - 5:30:13 PM

Islamabad, April 20 - Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri has said that Pakistan and India are nearing agreement on the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which has strained bilateral relations for almost 60 years, a press report said Friday.

'Lots of ground has been covered for an agreement on Kashmir and some areas of differences are being sorted out,' Kasuri told The Nation newspaper in an interview.

Both nuclear-armed neighbours lay claim to Kashmir, which was the cause of two of the three wars fought by India and Pakistan since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Declining to dwell on the details of the anticipated deal, the foreign minister said most of the proposed contours were already being discussed in the media.

'Certain steps are needed to create a conducive environment so that the two governments could sell the package to the people of Pakistan, India and Kashmir,' he said.

According to Kasuri, progress toward a settlement was irreversible because the negotiations were not confined to the incumbent governments in Islamabad and New Delhi and would be continued by successors.

India and Pakistan initiated renewed talks called the 'composite dialogue' in January 2004 to address conflicts and disputes, including that around Kashmir.

Although a number of terrorist incidents in India in recent years threatened to derail the negotiations, the process is still inching forward with confidence-building measures. These include establishment of transport links between the countries and plans to relax visa regulations.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also tabled a four-point formula to end the Kashmir conflict with proposals calling for the demilitarisation of the region and self-governance for Kashmiris overseen by Islamabad and New Delhi.

However, opposition parties in Pakistan criticized Musharraf and his government for sidelining the parliament in formulating foreign policy, particularly concerning the country's stance on Kashmir.

Kasuri defended the administration's method by saying the two sides were discussing various options and no agreement would be reached without the consent of legislators.

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