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10/17/04 - TALKING ABOUT KASHMIR - 2004-10-18

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have agreed to explore possible options for a peaceful negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute. "We have made a new beginning," said Prime Minister Singh. President Musharraf expressed the hope that negotiations will improve relations between Pakistan and India.

In the past fifteen-years, an estimated forty-thousand people have died in Kashmir from armed conflict, terrorism, and human rights abuses. Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Masood Ahmed Khan said "both Pakistan and India must reach a solution, as it is the people of Kashmir who are suffering from the lingering dispute."

Pakistan and India have issued joint statements in recent weeks concerning Kashmir. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the U.S. supports negotiations:

"We noted the fact that they [India and Pakistan] are going to address the issue of Kashmir and also move forward in some other concrete ways in developing their relationship. We think that's a very positive development.”

Mr. Boucher says the Kashmir issue can be resolved only by the parties to the dispute:

"As you know, both of these nations are good friends [of the U.S.] and we have always encouraged them to move forward together and [we're] very pleased to see that they themselves are moving forward."

Mr. Boucher said "it is hard to predict exactly how and when" the Kashmir dispute will be resolved. But, he said, the steps Pakistan and India are taking are "a positive sign and one that we have certainly worked hard to encourage and will continue to encourage."