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Kashmir: Prime minister meets separatist leaders

Source: PTI
February 18, 2006 02:37 IST
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Seeking a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday met separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yaseen Malik and assured him the Centre has an 'open mind' and would like to involve a larger cross section of public opinion to end 'the period of suffering'.

In his first meeting with Malik, Dr Singh said there was an air of optimism in the state and an opportunity to bring lasting and permanent peace in the state.

Singh's meeting with Malik comes a week ahead of his talks with a cross-section of political parties and separatists groups from the state.

"The prime minister would like all men and women of goodwill in the dialogue process to end the period of suffering," Prime Minister's Media Adviser Sanjaya Baru told reporters after the hour-long meeting with Malik.

Emerging from the meeting at the prime minister's Race Course Road residence, Malik wanted the Centre to hold talks with separatist leaders in a third country on the line of negotiations being held with Naga insurgent groups. Terming his meeting with the prime minister as part of 'consultations', Malik made it clear that the peace process would become irreversible only after key militant leaders were included in the talks.

"My meeting with the central leadership is not a dialogue process but only a consultation process," Malik said.

He said the meeting had given him an opportunity to present a set of compact disc which contained an 'honest, transparent democratic verdict of people' whereby they wanted to be included in the peace process.

"Till now, Kashmiris have only been called for consultation process and having a photo opportunity and there is no sign of optimism so far," Malik said.

Referring to suggestions given by him to the prime minister, he said, "There should be a dialogue process like the Centre has been holding with NSCN-IM. Why not with Kashmiri militant groups in a third country?

"For the last five years, neither a civilian nor any army personnel has been killed in Nagaland only because the main insurgent group has been involved in the peace process," he said.

Asked about his meeting with militant groups Lashker-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen chiefs in Islamabad, he said it would not be proper for him to reveal what transpired there.

He said it was important to include Kashmiri militant leaders and separatists in decision-making on Kashmir issue.

Asked if he was happy with the meeting with the prime minister, Malik said, "I have given my suggestions and he (Dr Singh) will discuss with his cabinet colleagues."

According to Baru, the prime minister said in his opening remarks at the meeting that he would like to engage all political parties and all those who are outside the electoral process in a constructive dialogue process.

"We are seeking ways and means to promote a structured dialogue. You have my assurance that we have an open mind and we would like to involve as large a cross section of public opinion as possible in this dialogue", Singh said and added "We seek a genuine and permanent reconciliation in state."

Malik is the second leader after Peoples Conference's Sajjad Lone to be invited by the prime minister for talks on the Kashmir issue.

The Centre has said it would hold talks with a cross-section of separatist leaders from the state. The prime minister had kicked off the exercise by holding talks with a delegation of Hurriyat Conference on September 5 last year.

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