India plans ‘Kashmir roundtable’ this month
SRINAGAR: India will hold a meeting of Kashmiri political parties this month to find a solution to the dispute, the government said on Saturday, despite separatists staying away from two similar meetings in the past.
The third “Kashmir roundtable”, an idea mooted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will be held in New Delhi on April 24. The first two meetings — in February and May last year — were a non-event as mainly pro-Indian parties and groups attended them with the region’s main separatists staying away. The separatists said Pakistan must be involved in any talks on the future of the Himalayan region.
Militant groups fighting Indian rule in the Himalayan region also condemned the meetings. A string of attacks coincided with the May conclave in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital. “The third roundtable is yet another opportunity to representatives of political parties, ethnic groups and opinion leaders from all regions to deliberate upon all issues,” Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in the statement. “All of us have to discharge (a) historic role and contribute for cultivating peace in the state,” he added.
The roundtable is a process separate from the India, Pakistan peace talks which began in January 2004 and which, too, have not made much progress on the core dispute of Kashmir. Kashmir’s main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said it would take a final decision on Monday on whether it would attend the meeting.
Meanwhile, police said that Indian troops shot dead seven suspected militants in two gunbattles in Held Kashmir. Two rebels were killed in a clash on Saturday with troops in Pulwama district, 50 kilometres south of Srinagar, police said, without giving further details. agencies