Pakistan, India Seek to Prevent Accidental Nuclear Conflict

Pakistan and India agreed to work on a pact that would avert the risk of an accident triggering a nuclear conflict between the South Asian rivals, a joint statement said on Wednesday.

Senior officials rounded off two days of talks in Islamabad on confidence building measures related to their nuclear arsenals -- part of the governments' continuing peace efforts after more than half a century of hostility.

"The two sides held detailed discussions on the draft text of an agreement the objective of which is to reduce the risk from accidents relating to nuclear weapons and agreed to work towards its finalization," the statement said.

The two sides were expected to discuss issues relating to conventional weapons on Thursday.

Leaders of Indian and Pakistani delegations said they should be able to conclude the nuclear agreement soon, but gave no date.

"I am confident that we should be able to finalize it in the shortest possible time," K. C. Singh, additional secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters.

His Pakistani counterpart, Tariq Osman Hyder, reported "rapid progress" in the talks and said that the two sides will be able to "narrow their differences that may exist at this stage."

The talks are part of a series of negotiations -- dubbed as a composite dialogue -- that Indian and Pakistani leaders began in January 2004 to settle their dispute over Kashmir and other issues.

The two countries separately control parts of Kashmir but each of them claims the whole of the Himalayan region. They have fought two wars over Kashmir since independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

The peace negotiations have led Pakistan and India to ease travel along their fortified border, restore severed transportation links but they have made little progress on Kashmir.