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NEW DELHI(HT): Decks appeared to clear on Saturday for a meeting between Kashmiri separatists and members of an all-party delegation scheduled to visit Srinagar early next month.
The Centre and the state government reached an understanding that no member of the delegation will be discouraged from engaging with the separatist leaders, sources said after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday.
Talks with separatists are seen by many as necessary to restore normality in Kashmir, where 70 people have been killed in street protests against the gunning down of militant commander Burhan Wani last month. The region has been under curfew for a record 50 days.
“The meeting with PM was a confidence boosting measure for Mehbooba… The PM said the Centre is solidly standing by her,” a senior government official with knowledge of the meeting said on the condition of anonymity. This was Mufti’s first meeting with Modi since trouble started in Kashmir on July 9.
Mufti held out an olive branch to separatists , saying they should come forward to help her government end the cycle of violence. Her party, PDP, later urged separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani to treat her as his daughter and give her “the opportunity she deserves”.
According to PDP sources, Mufti suggested to Modi a “three-pronged action plan”, including involving separatists and Pakistan in substantive talks. She also asked for “an institutional mechanism of interlocutors” to talk to all stakeholders in Kashmir.
In 2010, when Kashmir was in the grips of similar violent street protests, a meeting between an all-party team and separatists helped restore calm. The then UPA government had also sent a team of interlocutors to Kashmir but their recommendations have since gathered dust.
“They (the separatists) have to decide if they want to talk.