India PM And Kashmir Separatists To Begin Talks
4 September 2005
New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold talks on Monday with Kashmir's main political separatist alliance as he prepares for a meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf next week. The talks come after Singh invited leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference last week for dialogue which analysts said was a message to alienated Kashmiris that he wanted to address their grievances. On Sept. 14, Singh will meet Musharraf on the sidelines of the U.N. summit of world leaders in New York to push the broader India-Pakistan peace process. India's Junior Home Minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal termed the talks with Hurriyat as 'very significant'. 'Our interest is that there should be peace in Kashmir and I feel the Hurriyat leaders should understand this and I think they do,' Jaiswal told Reuters. More than 45,000 people have been killed in the 16-year- old separatist revolt in the Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, mainly Hindu India's only Muslim majority state. Singh has said his talks with the Hurriyat could help the wider peace process which has seen more sporting, commercial, transport and cultural links between India and Pakistan but little forward movement on their key dispute of Kashmir. The last round of talks between the Hurriyat and New Delhi failed over India's insistence they must be held within the Indian constitution which states Kashmir is an integral part of the country. This time, the Hurriyat says it is more optimistic. 'We have no conditions from our side and they (New Delhi) have no conditions this time,' said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, head of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat heading the five-member team, on his arrival in New Delhi on Sunday. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the scenic Himalayan terrority but ties have improved since both started a peace process two years ago. However, New Delhi remains concerned over infiltration of Islamist militants fighting Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan. 'Infiltration should stop. We have been saying this to Pakistan repeatedly,' Jaiswal said late on Sunday. For its part, Islamic Pakistan denies aiding Muslim militancy in Indian Kashmir and feels India is slow-pedalling on a solution to the dispute.