MAJOR: India and Pakistan Authorities Meet to Agree on De-escalation Steps

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Officials of India and Pakistan have held a major meeting today with the aim of de-escalating tensions, the first meeting since the sharp deterioration of relations between the two countries around the disputed region of Kashmir. The meeting of representatives of the two South Asian countries, both being nuclear powers, became more proof that bilateral tensions are slightly easing.

Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India, Rawish Kumar, said that the talks began today, March 14th, the Pakistani delegation arrived on Indian territory in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Faisal leads the Pakistani delegation.

As a confidence-building measure, against the background of escalations and with a desire to decrease the possibility of further confrontation, they are discussing the issue of opening a visa-free border checkpoint so that pilgrims can visit the Sikh shrine near the border between India and Pakistan.

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Pakistani authorities last week detained two close relatives of the leader of a Sunni extremist group, Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of the Prophet Muhammad), whose militants committed a major terrorist attack on February 14th in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir.

It was this terrorist activity of this group that became the starting point for the resumption of the armed conflict between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan had promised to act swiftly against JeM, but did not do so along a time-line that was sufficient for India. As a result, India launched a series of air raids upon targets which they claimed were Jem installations.

Relations between India and Pakistan sharply worsened after the terrorist attack on February 14 in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, among the victims were 44 military personnel and police officers of India. In response, the Indian Air Force attacked targets in Pakistan, which New Delhi claimed were JeM installations. According to New Delhi, a camp of the Jaish-e-Muhammad group was hit. To intercept planes were scrambled by the Pakistan Air Force. On February 27th, the situation around the disputed Kashmir region escalated even more, two Indian and one Pakistani plane were shot down. Islamabad has denied the loss of its combat aircraft.

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