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PM sticks to border line on talks
- Hand in hand but not on Kashmir

New Delhi, Nov. 24: India today laid down the parameters for a final resolution of the Kashmir problem and told Pakistan that it will not accept any formulation that calls for a further division of the country.

As part of its policy of 'flexibility with realism', Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz that India was committed to peace with Islamabad and to resolving all outstanding bilateral issues, including Kashmir.

But he said this was possible only when Pakistan fulfils its commitment to stop cross-border terrorism from its soil and the territory under its control.

Briefing the media on the meeting of the Prime Ministers and their delegations, foreign secretary Shyam Saran said: 'The commitment made by President (Pervez) Musharraf on the January 6 (2004) joint statement was conveyed to Pakistan.'

At the end of the meeting, at least one thing was clear: the India-Pakistan dialogue will continue till February. The foreign secretaries are supposed to meet by year-end, to be followed by a composite dialogue between the two sides.

Foreign minister K. Natwar Singh will travel to Islamabad to meet his Pakistani counterpart Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri. But before this, there is a chance the Prime Minister might meet Musharraf on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in Dhaka, slated for early January.

Manmohan Singh's remarks, particularly his reference to the joint statement that his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Musharraf issued in Islamabad in January, sets at rest speculation that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government was willing to gloss over Pakistan's commitment to stopping cross-border terrorism to push forward the current peace process.

Aziz agreed with his Indian host that there was a growing desire for peace even in Pakistan and expressed his government's commitment for continuing the dialogue. But he said Islamabad wanted things to move on all outstanding matters 'in tandem with the Kashmir issue'.

However, Singh repeated what he said in Srinagar recently ' Delhi will not accept any further geographical division and will not allow another partition on religious lines in the subcontinent. 'He (Singh) told the Pakistani Prime Minister that what he said in Srinagar was not anything different from what he told President Musharraf during their meeting in New York in September,' Saran said.

The Prime Minister's remarks are being seen as a response to Musharraf's 'out-of-the-box' thinking on Kashmir. The Pakistan President said among other things that Jammu and Kashmir, including the region under Islamabad's control, should be divided into seven different regions and their status dealt with separately.

Singh's firm response made Aziz clarify that Musharraf had not put forward a formal proposal but was only trying 'to throw up some new ideas' to resolve the Kashmir problem.

Saran said India was not defensive on Kashmir or trying to stall a serious dialogue, but added that the issue was complex and emotional and could not be resolved in a hurry.

'We are not trying to deflect the issue. But before we can think of going for a final resolution of the J&K issue, we need to build trust and confidence' he said.

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