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India’s opposition parties call for talks with Kashmiris


NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday he wants India to discuss human rights issues about Balochistan and Azad Kashmir with expatriates from these regions living in different countries.

He also cited an old parliamentary resolution to claim all of Jammu and Kashmir, including the part with Pakistan, as India’s, but opposition leaders he was addressing looked unimpressed and told him to heal the shattered hearts of the people in the Kashmir Valley first.

Describing Azad Jammu and Kashmir as India’s, Mr Modi told an all-party meeting that a dialogue must be initiated with expatriates all over the world from that region about what Indians say are abuses by Islamabad.

Modi wants rights issues discussed with Balochistan, AJK expatriates

“There cannot be any compromise on national security, but we have to win the confidence of the people in Jammu and Kashmir,” Mr Modi said, playing good cop bad cop on the raging issue.

He blamed “cross-border terrorism” for the unrest in the disputed region. Friday’s meeting was called to find a political solution to the crisis in Kashmir, where over 50 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces and more than 5,000 have been injured since July 8 when violent protests erupted over the killing of Burhan Wani, a young militant.

The opposition said that it backed the government in its attempt to restore peace in the valley, but demanded that immediate confidence-building measures be initiated like discontinuing the use of pellet guns to curb protests.

In the recent protests at least 100 people have been blinded by pellets fired by security forces and many others are injured.

Opposition leaders also suggested that discussions be held with all groups, including those opposed to Indian rule in the disputed region, and that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which grants special powers to the army, be lifted from civilian areas. But the government said that these conditions might not be appropriate at this time.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh spoke first for the Congress, saying the “centre must show it is a caring government”.

The government has said it would consider all of the suggestions made by the opposition, including sending an all-party delegation to Kashmir after the situation on the ground improves.

“We will be satisfied only when the ground situation improves and the government takes steps,” said the Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had criticised PM Modi for making his first comments on the Kashmir crisis at a rally in Madhya Pradesh and not in parliament.

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