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India, Pakistan hold talks on militants, prisoners

August 29, 2005

By Kamil Zaheer

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India and Pakistan, seeking to nudge
a slow peace process forward, began talks on Monday to curb
terrorism and drug trafficking and work out prisoner exchanges.

As the talks started, the Press Trust of India reported
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President
Pervez Musharraf would meet in New York on September 14 to
review the peace process.

The news agency quoted Singh as saying the two leaders
would hold talks on the sidelines of the U.N. summit of world
leaders on September 14-16.

The two last met in New Delhi in April when they declared
their peace process “irreversible.”

The peace process has seen slow progress over the past two
years with a decades-old dispute over the Himalayan territory
by far the most contentious issue. Both sides claim the
territory.

Later this week, the heads of both foreign departments meet
in Islamabad to lay the ground for the Singh-Musharraf meeting.

The Indian team to Monday’s talks in New Delhi on terrorism
and narcotics is led by Home Secretary Vinod Kumar Duggal while
the Pakistani delegation is headed by Interior Secretary Syed
Kamal Shah.

India accuses Pakistan of fomenting a revolt by Muslim
militants in Indian Kashmir. On Sunday, troops shot dead four
militants trying to sneak into Indian Kashmir, India’s army
said.

At the New Delhi talks, officials from both sides will also
discuss prisoner exchanges, after a public outcry in India over
Pakistan’s decision to execute an Indian convicted of spying.

Pakistani authorities said Manjit Singh worked for Indian
intelligence and was involved in bomb blasts in Pakistani
cities.

The convicted man’s family says he is actually Sarabjit
Singh, a farmer from the Indian state of Punjab who
accidentally crossed the frontier while drunk. His family
members have threatened to commit suicide if he is executed.

Analysts said the uproar over the case was an opportunity
to start work on procedures on how to deal with prisoners.

“This is an opportunity to talk about how to treat
prisoners humanely and how to get them home,” strategic affairs
analyst Jasjit Singh told Reuters. “It’s a do-able thing.”

Both sides have hundreds of prisoners in each other’s
jails. The majority are fishermen and civilians who strayed
across sea and land borders.

New Delhi will ask Pakistan to hand over criminals and
those it calls “terrorists” lodged in Pakistani jails and
wanted for crimes in India including terror attacks.

“They should face the law,” Duggal told reporters.




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