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Khar calls for talks with India on Kashmir clashes


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Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's Minister for Foreign Affairs speaks on stage at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York, January 16, 2013. – Reuters Photo

NEW YORK: Pakistan's foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday called for talks with her Indian counterpart to ease tensions over deadly clashes in the disputed Kashmir region.

The minister said in New York that 10 days of fighting over the unofficial border had “created questions” about relations but added that Pakistan was “open” to dialogue between foreign ministers to end the dispute.

Khar spoke as India's military said it had reached an “understanding” with Pakistan to “de-escalate” tensions in Kashmir, which has been the cause of two of the three wars between the neighbors since 1947.

Pakistan says three of its troops have died in three incidents since January 6. India says two of its soldiers have been killed, one of them beheaded, in hostilities along the Line of Control (LOC) frontier in the Himalayan region.

Khar, who on Tuesday accused India of “warmongering,” was again critical of “very hostile, negative statements” made by Indian leaders in recent days. She added that there had been a “glaring difference” in the reactions of the two governments.

“Unfortunately this LOC incident has obviously created questions, but we still believe that dialogue must be the means to resolve this or any issue,” Khar said at the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

“We will be open to a discussion, a dialogue, at the level of the foreign ministers to be able to resolve the issue of cross-LOC incidents and to re-commit ourselves to the respect for the ceasefire.” Khar added that “Pakistan is fully committed” to a Kashmir ceasefire agreed to in 2003.

The minister told the meeting that the Pakistan government had faced a “backlash” at home to its attempts to improve relations over the past four years.

She added that there are groups on both sides who do not want a peace process. “They will always encourage you to go hard on the rhetoric and ratchet up the tension. Some people find it in their interests. We don't, so we must not fall prey to that,” Khar said.

“I hope that this will pass,” the minister said, adding that she was still “relatively positive” about prospects for relations between the two countries.

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