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Ready for talks, but violence must end first: PM

Last updated on: September 15, 2010 12:35 IST

With no respite in the unrest in Kashmir Valley, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday held consultations with leaders of political parties on steps to defuse the situation amid demands for dilution of the contentious AFSPA on which there is no consensus yet.

Stating that the only path for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir was that of dialogue and discussion, Dr Singh said that the government was ready for dialogue with anybody or any group that does not espouse or practice violence.

"Those having grievances against the government have to talk to the administration but discussions can take place in an atmosphere free from violence and confrontation," he said.

Expressing shock over youth and children participating in the, the Prime Minister claimed that it could not be denied that some of the protests had been orchestrated by certain groups.

Opposition PDP, which has so far stayed away from official deliberations on the crisis, which has engulfed Kashmir for the last three months, attended the crucial all party meeting with its President Mehbooba Mufti heading the delegation.

Ahead of the meeting at Prime Minister's Race Course residence, PMO sources said the aim of the exercise was to see how much consensus could be built and how to restart dialogue with different sections of people.

Sources in the government said that diluting the provisions of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was certainly not the single-point agenda of the meeting.

BJP is firmly opposed to any dilution of this Act and the Army has also voiced reservations.

Besides, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is also UPA Chairperson and Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the meeting is also being attended by top BJP leaders L K Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat and CPI's D Raja.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav represented SP, RJD and JD-U respectively.

A five-member ruling National Conference delegation led by party President Farooq Abdullah took part in the talks.

The NC delegation has decided to vigorously pursue the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and restoration of autonomy to the state.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah did not attend the meeting.

The NC, in a veiled threat, has spoken of reconsidering its alliance with Congress if its demands were rejected. "We will not repeat the mistake of 2000," Chaudhry Mohammad Ramzan, who is part of the NC delegation, said ahead of the meeting.

The party had continued to be part of the then ruling NDA even after the Centre rejected the autonomy resolution passed by the State Assembly, where National Conference enjoyed two-third majority.

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti had told PTI on Tuesday night that although the meeting has been called "little too late", a beginning has to be made for restoring normalcy in the valley and also to address the larger issue of Kashmir.

She expressed the hope that positive decisions will be taken at the all party meeting tomorrow, which will be implemented on ground.

Sources in the PDP claimed the party's decision to join the efforts of Centre in finding a solution came after some senior Central Congress leaders persuaded the Muftis.

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