It’s time for solution: Mirwaiz

Published September 5, 2005

SRINAGAR, Sept 4: India’s prime minister is to hold talks on Monday with Indian Kashmiri leaders amid what analysts say are brightening hopes of a settlement in the decades-old dispute over the future of the revolt-hit region.

The talks, to be held in New Delhi at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation, are slated ahead of a meeting between him and Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf in mid-September in New York, where Kashmir will be a key topic.

Discussions with the moderate wing of Kashmir’s main separatist alliance Hurriyat, will mark a resumption of a dialogue with New Delhi that stalled after the election of the Congress-led national coalition in May 2004.

The dispute “can’t be solved by guns and violence,” said Kashmir’s chief Muslim cleric, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, 32, a tech-savvy preacher who will lead Hurriyat in the talks.

“We believe the time has come when we need to talk to bring about a solution,” he told AFP in Srinagar.

Analysts caution against expecting any dramatic breakthrough in the meeting with Hurriyat, formed 12 years ago as a political front for Kashmiri separatists. But they say they are hopeful progress will be made after two earlier rounds with the previous Hindu nationalist government ended inconclusively.

They cite much-improved relations between India and Pakistan and a trip by the moderate separatists to Pakistan three months ago during which they met Musharraf.

“These talks are linked with what is going on between India and Pakistan,” said Tahir Mohiudin, editor of The Rock, an Urdu weekly. “I think at the grassroots level many things have already been discussed and decided.”

The Hurriyat leaders had been excluded from a peace process which began in early 2004 between India and Pakistan.

But now the moderates are being consulted in the dialogue over the future of the Muslim-majority region, split between the countries.

“Talks with India are part of an ongoing process. It’s part of a triangular process,” Farooq said, referring to India’s holding talks with Pakistan.—AFP

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