Kashmiri Separatist Leaders Meet to Discuss Peace Moves
Kashmiri separatist political leaders began a crucial meeting on Sunday to unify their position on the Indian army's cease-fire in the region and future peace talks.
All seven leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference -- an umbrella organization comprising around two dozen separatist parties -- are in the state's summer capital Srinagar for the meeting.
"The discussions on the peace process and cease-fire will be with reference to where it will lead and whether there could be a resolution of the dispute (with India)," said Abdul Gani Bhat, a senior separatist leader.
Political observers said New Delhi will be keenly watching the outcome of the meeting as it could open the way for an extension of the cease-fire, scheduled to end on December 30.
A senior Hurriyat member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said divisions among the separatist groups meant the talks were likely to be long and stormy.
"It is an important meeting. We will have to discipline some of our members who have been unnecessarily creating confusion by giving divergent statements," he said.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee declared a unilateral cease-fire in Kashmir on November 27 to coincide with the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
The moderate Hurriyat, which favors three-way talks involving Pakistan, India and Kashmiri separatists, has found itself in a difficult position as pro-Islamic militant groups have rejected the cease-fire as a propaganda ploy.
The Muslim insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir has claimed more than 34,000 lives since it erupted in 1989.
India blames Pakistan for providing military backing to the militants, but Pakistan says it only offers diplomatic support to the Kashmiri separatists -- SRINAGAR (AFP)
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