India and Pakistan agreed Saturday not to attack each other's nuclear facilities, a move hailed by their prime ministers as the first step toward easing their countries' often hostile relations.
"I think that in both our countries there is a ground-swell for peace," Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan said. "An extremely important step has been taken toward improving relations between India and Pakistan."Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India said he hoped this week's talks with Bhutto "will help normalize things to come."
The two leaders, who met for eight hours, spoke to reporters after Indian and Pakistani officials signed the no-attack pact. The two nations also agreed to cultural exchanges and to end double taxation in bilateral trade.
"A momentum for peace has begun," Bhutto said.
Gandhi, turning to Bhutto, noted the agreements were the first to be signed between India and Pakistan since 1972, when "your father and my mother" signed an accord calling for a gradual normalization of relations.
Bhutto is the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister who was hanged in 1979. Gandhi is the son of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards.
The meeting between Bhutto and Gandhi offers the hope that a new generation of leaders can ease the hostility between their nations, which have gone to war three times since gaining independence in 1947. Moslem Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India were created out of British colonial India and were partitioned along religious lines.
"For a very long period, the relations between India and Pakistan were flawed," said Bhutto, who took office Dec. 2 after Pakistan's first free elections in 11 years.
The main sticking points between India and Pakistan have included wariness of each other's nuclear capabilities, the dispute over their border in Kashmir and violence by Sikh extremists in the Indian state of Punjab.
India contends the Sikh separatists, blamed for the deaths of more than 2,400 people in Punjab in 1988, have obtained arms and training in Pakistan. Pakistan has repeatedly denied the accusation.
The agreement not to attack each other's nuclear installations was reached verbally in 1985, when Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq visited New Delhi. The cultural and taxation agreements were drafted and initialed a year ago.
The nuclear agreement, proclaiming a commitment to "durable peace," said Pakistan and India "will refrain from undertaking, encouraging or participating indirectly or directly in any action aimed at causing the destruction or damage to any such (nuclear) installations or facilities in the other country."
The agreement covers nuclear power and research facilities as well as uranium enrichment plants and other nuclear-related facilities. India operates nuclear power plants and has also conducted a nuclear test, while Pakistan says its nuclear installations are for energy uses.