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Kashmir - no mere molehill

Working off the chemistry of its leaders, India and Pakistan's summit ends with promise of more talks.

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After three days of marathon meetings, lavish banquets, and peevish finger-pointing, the leaders of India and Pakistan have reached only the most basic agreement of all: simply to meet again.

Part homecoming, blind date, and high-stakes poker game, the Agra summit contrasted the polar-opposite negotiating styles of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Musharraf is a no-nonsense military man who prefers detailed, point-by-point discussions and decisive actions. Mr. Vajpayee, a life-long parliamentarian, has a penchant for poetry and florid, wide-ranging dialogues that have the effect of wearing down opponents with charm.

But because both men represent the most hawkish elements of their country - the Pakistani Army on one hand, and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party on the other - analysts say that any decision reached in subsequent meetings, however minor, will have a greater chance of sticking.

"The political situation does not allow both countries to make 180-degree turns from their stated positions," says Rifaat Hussein, chairman of the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies at Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan. "So this summit simply prepares the ground for them to be able to announce certain initiatives for Kashmir that may contain the seeds for a resolution. The success will be small, but that small success will be irreversible."

Borders to war over

The stumbling block of the troubled northern border state of Jammu and Kashmir, which both countries claim, was also the very issue that brought the two sides together. The summit is the first meeting of the top leaders of India and Pakistan since then-General Musharraf oversaw an attack on the Kashmiri border town of Kargil more than two years ago. Underscoring the troubles in the territory, at least 86 people have been killed during the talks, say reports from the Himalayan region.

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