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Indian leaders fail to develop consensus on IHK

NEW DELHI—No consensus was reached on the dilution of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir to control violence in the Valley at the all party meet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. At the meet it was decided that an all party delegation would visit the state to assess the ground situation before arriving at any decision. Expressing satisfaction over the result of the meeting, Union minister for new and renewable energy Farooq Abdullah told the mediapersons that an all party delegation will visit the state. “The home ministry will organise the visit of the delegation and the state government will facilitate the delegation to meet the various groups. A meaningful dialogue must begin.” Abdullah also told the mediapersons that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has no trust deficit in Omar Abdullah’s government in Jammu and Kashmir. The opposition leader of J&K and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said that mere words are not enough. The government should take a concrete and not a cosmetic step forward in this direction. “Unconditional dialogue is crucial and separatists should be included in the talks to find a meaningful solution to the crisis.” Meanwhile, in a statement issued by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi urged all political parties to put aside their ideological and political differences. She said, “The challenge is too serious to allow differences to get in way.” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday he was “shocked and distressed” by deadly protests in Indian-administered Kashmir and called for calm to enable talks on the crisis to take place. “I was shocked and distressed to see young men and women — even children —joining the protests on the streets,” Singh said at the opening of a meeting of political parties called to debate ways of easing tensions in the region. Leaders of India’s main political parties debated Wednesday whether to ease harsh security laws in Indian-administered Kashmir as the government searched for a strategy to end months of increasingly violent protests in the region. Under the laws, army officers in the region can search homes and make arrests without warrants, can shoot at anyone suspected of being a separatist and can blow up a building or a home on suspicion insurgents are using it. The fate of Kashmir is one of the most volatile issues facing India. Control of the territory is divided between India and Pakistan, which both lay claim to the whole region and have fought two wars over it.With no resolution in sight to the six decade dispute, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets over the past three summers, stoning troops and demanding independence from India or a merger with Pakistan. In the worst violence so far this year, 18 protesters were killed in street battles on Monday, exacerbated by reports of Quran desecration in the United States. In response, authorities slapped a round-the-clock curfew across the territory and threatened to shoot violators on sight. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with top politicians in New Delhi and appealed for ideas to end the violence. ‘’I have said this earlier and I say it again: The only path for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir is that of dialogue and discussion,’‘ he said. Singh accused separatist groups of orchestrating some of the violent protests, appealed for calm in the region and said the government was willing to talk to any group that did not espouse violence. The chances of reaching a consensus over Kashmir is extremely unlikely, with political leaders deeply divided over how to proceed. Kashmiri politicians, hoping to regain some credibility with their people, have pressed for the lifting of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the region. But some Cabinet ministers and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party oppose even a partial lifting of the law, which they say would lead to even more violence. ‘’We want peace to return to Kashmir. But it cannot return if separatists have a free hand and the army’s hands are tied,’‘ BJP leader Arun Jaitley said Wednesday. Even if the government agreed to lift the restrictions on Kashmir it would not necessarily appease separatist leaders. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a leader of the umbrella grouping All Parties Hurriyat Conference, has demanded India declare Kashmir an international dispute, withdraw hundreds of thousands of troops from the region and release all political prisoners as a precondition for talks.—Reuters

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