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India, Pakistan Resume Peace Talks

India and Pakistan plan to hold a third round of peace talks in January with discussions focused on security and confidence building measures between the nuclear rivals and the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, an Indian official said Monday.

The talks from Jan. 17-18 would be led by the foreign secretaries of each country and review progress made so far at lower-level meetings as well as plot a course for future negotiations, said Natvej Sarna, a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry.

Relations between India and Pakistan, long bedeviled by their conflict over Kashmir, a divided territory claimed by both, have improved considerably since the start of the peace process in January 2004.

Still, the longtime rivals have managed to make only small steps toward peace since the massive South Asian quake that in October devastated Kashmir, a tragedy that it was initially hoped would bring the countries together.

The rivals have fought three wars since the subcontinent was partitioned at independence from Britain in 1947, including two conflicts over Kashmir.

Further complicating matters is an Islamic insurgency in India's part of Kashmir that has festered since 1989. India says Pakistan supports the militants from its side of the territory, a claim Islamabad denies.

The top foreign ministry officials last met in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, in September.

The coming talks will focus "on two subjects ... peace and security, including confidence building measures, and on Jammu-Kashmir," Sarna said.

He also said that a delegation of railroad officials from Pakistan is scheduled to visit New Delhi next week for talks to reopen a second rail link between the countries. The first rail link was resumed last year.

The train service would link Munabao, a desert town in western India, and Khokrapar, a border town in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh. The route was cut during a 1965 war between the two countries.

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