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Pakistan says ready for commander-level talks with India.

ISLAMABAD, June 20 Kyodo

Pakistan said Thursday it is ready for commander-level talks with India on de-escalating tensions between the nuclear rivals as proposed by Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh but asked New Delhi to formally convey the proposal through proper channels.

''As far as we are concerned, we are ready for talks,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Khan told Kyodo News when asked to comment on the Indian proposal.

''We have read the statement. It is to come through the formal channels. In any case, Director General Military Operations (DGMOs) talks are held every Tuesday,'' he said.

The Indian Express newspaper on Wednesday quoted Singh as saying in an interview that Pakistani and Indian military commanders could engage in a dialogue through established channels to discuss de-escalation on the border.

Following the latest exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistan troops in the Bahwalpur sector in southern Punjab on Tuesday night, DGMOs established contact Wednesday and agreed on a flag meeting of two area commanders.

Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, spokesman for the Pakistani Defense Ministry and President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's press secretary, also told Kyodo News that if India really seeks de-escalation, it should convey the proposal through the proper channels.

He said Pakistan has been calling for the start of dialogue on Kashmir ''leading to genuine reduction of friction and tensions between India and Pakistan.''

The two archrivals have deployed around a million soldiers along their borders and the Line of Control in Kashmir since a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament last December that New Delhi blames on Pakistani-based militants.

India, which controls two-thirds of Kashmir, says Pakistan has fueled militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, its only Muslim-majority state, for more than 12 years in a violent campaign that has left some 25,000 people dead.

Pakistan has said it is only extending moral support for the ''freedom fighters'' in Kashmir, whom India calls ''terrorists.''

Since gaining their independence from British rule in 1947, the two countries have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jun 24, 2002
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