August 8, 2005

India-Pakistan talks aim to reduce conflict risk

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan,
fresh from an agreement reached at the weekend to improve
contacts over nuclear activities, turned their focus to
conventional arms on Monday in a second round of talks.

The South Asian rivals on Saturday formally agreed to tell
each other in advance of plans to test missiles and to
establish a direct phone link between top foreign ministry
bureaucrats by next month to avoid misunderstandings over
nuclear activities.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their
independence from Britain in 1947 but diplomatic, sport,
commercial and transport links have improved since a peace
process started 19 months ago.

Analysts said conventional military safeguards to be
discussed on Monday will likely include a hotline between
senior officials and other mechanisms to clear up
misunderstandings caused by border skirmishes and unexpected
deployments or military exercises close to the frontier.

They said say military confidence building must also
include dialogue on violent militancy in Indian Kashmir that
New Delhi says is backed by Pakistan.

"In the South Asian context, talks on conventional military
confidence building cannot be divorced from terrorism," said
Bharat Karnad of the New Delhi-based Center For Policy
Research. "The route of the escalatory process is militancy."
"Terrorism can and has led to standoffs and misconceptions
between the two militaries," he said. "Terrorism can lead to a
situation of conventional military conflict."

In 2002, India and Pakistan stood at the brink of war after
a raid by Muslim militants on its parliament which New Delhi
blamed on a Pakistan-based group.