Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists should respond to the appeal for dialogue in the spirit in which it was made, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday.
Addressing a press conference, Singh reiterated his offer of talks made on Wednesday to both the separatists and Pakistan, without ‘pre-conditions’. But he warned Islamabad that talks would make little headway if there was no “effective control” over terror groups.
“We are a democracy and if precious lives are lost day in and day out, we cannot create the requisite atmosphere for negotiations,” said Singh.
The government underlined the prime minister’s peace initiative by announcing the withdrawal of 15,000 Indian troops from Poonch and Rajouri districts of Kashmir on Thursday.
“I believe a new chapter is opening in the peace process in J&K,” Singh said.
Diplomatic sources said Singh’s offer of talks had one salutary effect: it preempted Pakistani plans to ask visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to call for a resumption of the dialogue. Clinton declined to talk about Kashmir, saying US relations with India and Pakistan were “separate”.