- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NEW DELHI — The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan spoke of entering a new era in relations between their nuclear-armed nations, after meeting Wednesday for the first time since bilateral peace talks resumed this year.

While no major breakthroughs on their thorny disputes had been expected, the two agreed to work more closely in fighting terrorism and to ease commerce and travel across the U.N.-drawn Line of Control dividing their nations.

The Himalayan territory of Kashmir — a major source of tension that fueled two of three wars fought by the rivals since 1947 — will continue to be discussed “with a view to finding a peaceful solution,” Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said.

Both nations claim the whole territory now split between them and maintain heavy deployments along the border.

Pakistan’s newly installed foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, had raised eyebrows in India by meeting Tuesday with Kashmiri separatists, who openly oppose India’s heavy-handed rule and argue that Kashmiris should vote to decide the territory’s final status.

India has refused any such referendum, accusing Pakistan of fomenting conflict by arming and training rebels. Pakistan denies this and says it provides only moral and diplomatic support in backing the call for self-determination.

Nevertheless, the two sides described their talks Wednesday as constructive and cordial, agreeing on several measures toward improving life for Kashmiris, increasing the number of cross-border trading days from two to four and expediting travel permits, including for tourism and religious pilgrimage.

They discussed security cooperation and reiterated their commitment to fighting terrorism with the aim of stabilizing the region.

They also agreed their countries’ should explore dialogue on nuclear issues beginning in September — marking the first time they might share nuclear information since the late 1990s when both were conducting nuclear tests.

“This is indeed a new era of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, and it is our desire … to make it an uninterrupted and an uninterruptible process,” the Pakistani minister said after the talks. “There has been a mindset change in the people of the two countries that we must acknowledge.”

The meeting was a major milestone in the new round of peace talks that began in February.

India suspended an earlier round of talks after 10 Pakistani-based gunmen laid siege to the city of Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people. India has argued that Pakistani intelligence helped plan that attack and that Pakistan has not done enough to crack down on those behind it.

Despite a July 13 triple bombing in Mumbai that killed 20 people, neither side backed away from the new round of talks.