August 4, 2005

India, Pakistan to focus on missile tests in talks

By Kamil Zaheer

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India and Pakistan will seek to agree
on a formal pact on informing each other about missile tests
during a new round of talks on nuclear weapons that begin on

The talks are part of a tentative peace process between the
nuclear-armed neighbors. Although ties between the rivals have
improved since the process started in January 2004, Islamabad
and New Delhi have so far been unable to formalise an
understanding already in place to inform each other about
missile tests.

"They have been negotiating it. If it is finalized, you
will know day after tomorrow (Saturday). Certainly there has
been an exchange of drafts and discussions," Indian foreign
ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said late on Thursday.

The two old enemies will also on work on the nuts and bolts
of an agreement in June 2004 to set up a nuclear hotline to
avert misunderstandings.

But analysts said there was a limit to how much the two-day
talks could achieve.

"Both sides need to push to come to a formal deal on
notifying each other about missile tests," strategic affairs
analyst Jasjit Singh said.

"There is an asymmetry between Pakistan and India on
nuclear weapons use. We have committed to a first-no-use while
they have not," Singh said. "Because of this, talks will reach
a plateau after a while."

India and Pakistan stunned the world by conducting
tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998, triggering U.S. sanctions
which have been mostly lifted since then.

The latest nuclear talks come after India was recognized by
the United States as a responsible nuclear power during a visit
to Washington by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July.

"These are building blocks of the composite dialogue
process," Bharat Karnad, research professor of the New
Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, told Reuters.

"Both sides are attempting to build a confidence regime to
reassure each other about their nuclear intentions."

After the nuclear talks, India and Pakistan will hold
discussions on conventional military confidence building on
Monday, which will be followed by a meeting between the
commerce secretaries of both nations.