The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir is key to a permanent peace between Pakistan and India, a top Pakistani general told a security conference Sunday, and accused New Delhi of starting the nuclear arms race in South Asia.

The comments by Gen. Ehsan ul-Haq, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, are not new, but were unusual for the strong words he used in an international setting at a time when India and Pakistan have made much progress in their peace talks.

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Haq told the security and defense conference — a major annual get-together of defense ministers and officials — that Pakistan is committed to peace with India, noting that the two countries have agreed on several confidence-building measures such as more people-to-people contacts.

But "CBMs (confidence-building measures) cannot be an end in themselves," he said. "Any number of confidence-building measures would turn out to be futile, as long as there is no movement on the core issue of Kashmir. In fact, resolution of the issue of Kashmir itself would be the biggest CBM of all," he said.

A few Indian generals were among the audience at his speech. Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee heard a previous speaker, but left before Haq had started speaking.