India offers fresh peace talks to Kashmir
New Delhi has expressed its willingness to hold talks with ”any group” from Kashmir where protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent weeks and government forces have killed at least 65 people, mostly stone-throwing protesters.
The civilian deaths have fuelled anger in the disputed Himalayan region where anti-India sentiments run deep though militant violence has gone down.
“We hope to restart the dialogue process. We will talk to any group, any political party which is willing to talk to us,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.
According to Hindustan Times, the government will soon come out with specific meaures to address some issues which may bring relief to the people of Kashmir.
A nearly three-month-long separatist strike, curfew and security lockdown has kept the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley on the boil, shutting down much of the scenic region.
“Few days means few days…government hopes that it will be able to re-start the process of dialogue in the near future,” Chidambaram said.
After several failed rounds of peace talks between moderate separatists and New Delhi in the past decade, locals say India is only buying time and is not serious about resolution of the dispute.
In 2008, the biggest anti-India protests in two decades died down and India successfully held local elections in Kashmir a few months later. New Delhi showcased the election as an endorsement of its rule over the region.
Now Kashmiri separatists have laid down five conditions to enter into dialogue or end violent protests, the worst outbreaks of anti-government violence since a separatist revolt against New Delhi broke out in 1989.
The conditions include that India must accept Kashmir as an international dispute, revoke all oppressive laws including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives Indian troops wide powers to shoot, arrest and search in battling a separatist insurgency.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, the country’s main opposition, has warned New Delhi against any compromise on Kashmir and said there are indications that the government “is all set for some panic steps“.
Separatists want Kashmir’s complete freedom from India while New Delhi sees the mountainous region as an integral part of the country.
There is a gulf between their positions and New Delhi and Kashmir doubt each other’s sincerity. The two sides may find it difficult to start fresh peace talks soon and Kashmir may bleed more.