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India Open to Talks With Kashmiris

October 31, 2004|From Associated Press

NEW DELHI — India said Saturday that it was willing to hold unconditional peace talks with Kashmir's separatist groups, a news agency reported.

A government delegation will visit India's Jammu and Kashmir state next month and explore the possibility of talks with the All Party Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organization of two dozen separatist political and religious groups, Press Trust of India quoted Prakash Jaiswal, the deputy interior minister, as saying.

The delegation would also prepare for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first visit to the state since assuming office in May.

The umbrella separatist group held two rounds of talks with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist government early this year before it lost to the Congress Party in spring general elections.

The negotiations were the first high-level talks between the federal government and the separatists since the insurgency began in the Himalayan region in 1989.

The Congress Party-led government's efforts to resume talks have been hampered by a split in the umbrella group. It has broken into two factions -- one that supports independence from India, and a more hard-line faction that wants Kashmir to merge with Pakistan.

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