India, Pakistan to launch new round of peace talks next month

India and Pakistan on Friday agreed to launch their fifth round of peace talks on July 21 with the aim of resolving such contentious bilateral issues as their dispute over Kashmir, reported dpa.

The talks, also known as the composite dialogue, were announced by Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on the day Qureshi landed in New Delhi for a three-day visit.

"We hope that in the fifth round of the composite dialogue, concrete achievements will continue and pave the way for a qualitative transformation of our bilateral relations," Mukherjee said at a joint press conference with Qureshi after the two diplomats held talks.

"Our discussions covered different aspects of our relationship, including economic and commercial cooperation, political issues, promoting people-to-people contact as also a very useful exchange of views on the regional situation," he added.

The composite dialogue, which deal with eight issues that bedevil relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, has been a central part of the peace process for the past four years.

The ministers said peace and security, including confidence-building measures, as well as the Kashmir dispute would be discussed when Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries meet for the fifth round over two days.

A technical group from both countries is to meet July 10 to push forward new confidence-building measures that would lead to freer movement of people from both sides of Kashmir.

During the ministers' talks Friday, India pressed the Pakistani officials to take concrete action to curb the infiltration of Pakistan-based militants onto Indian soil.

New Delhi alleges that militants from Pakistan routinely cross over into parts of India and India-administered Kashmir to carry out attacks.

Mukherjee told reporters that terrorism was a threat to the democratic framework of India and Pakistan and both countries had to be "unambiguous" in addressing terrorism.

Meanwhile, referring to the Kashmir issue, Qureshi said "serious thoughts" needed to be given to resolve outstanding disputes.

Little progress has been made on Kashmir, which has been at the heart of tensions between the neighbours, which have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.

Qureshi also urged India to move quickly on a 7.5-billion-dollar India-Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline that would be a "pipeline of peace and new bonding."

Qureshi added that all bilateral issues regarding the pipeline were resolved and Islamabad would provide foolproof security for the pipeline in its territory.

The Pakistan minister, who is on his first visit to India after a new government took office in Islamabad in March, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later Friday.

He was scheduled to call on former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and opposition leader LK Advani Saturday.

Qureshi is to leave for Islamabad after visiting the northern cities of Chandigarh, Jaipur and Ajmer Sharif Sunday.

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