Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holds talks today with separatist leaders led by the chairman of the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. The grouping have said they were seeking to formalise space for Kashmiris in the talks for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
"The situation is much more conducive and India-Pakistan relations are very much on track. The Hurriyat's recent visit to Pakistan and endorsement of its policies by Islamabad and the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir regime has put the amalgam on a stronger wicket," the Mirwaiz said ahead of the talks, which will be held at Dr Singh's residence on Monday evening.
"The agenda will be to complete the political process of finding some space for Kashmiris in the talks for the resolution of the issue," he said.
Besides the Mirwaiz, the Hurriyat delegation comprises former Hurriyat chairmen Abdul Gani Bhat, Maulana Abbas Ansari and Bilal Lone, and Fazal-ul-haq Qureshi.
Dr Singh is likely to be assisted by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and National Security Advisor M K Narayanan. He may also meet the Centre's new Track-II man, Saifuddin Soz, before the parleys with the Hurriyat.
Today's talks with Dr Singh are the Hurriyat's first with the United Progressive Alliance government since the latter came to power last year, and are being held nine days ahead of Dr Singh's meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
A confident-looking Mirwaiz said the amalgam was aware that these talks were not going to bring about an overnight solution to the half-a-century old dispute.
"What we require is consolidation and continuity of the dialogue process with the Centre, besides being allowed to hold talks with the Pakistan regime. This will complete the cycle of Hurriyat's triangular concept of dialogue, whereby all the three -- India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir -- were represented at the talks," he said.
The talks, which are set to begin capping the amalgam's dithering for more than a year, would focus on improving the ground situation in Kashmir, including the Hurriyat's demand for improving human rights conditions.
Asked whether the Hurriyat was averse to the involvement of other separatist groups, the Mirwaiz said, "Let the talks begin, others will soon follow. I would like to make it clear that we are not against the involvement of other groups."
Ahead of the talks, Dr Singh had held a 45-minute long meeting on Sunday with Home Minister Shivraj Patil and the Centre's pointsman for Kashmir, N N Vohra, to chalk out the strategy for the meeting. The prime minister's special envoy to Pakistan, S K Lambha, was also present.