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Hurriyat leaders to visit Pak for peace

The purpose is to set up a permanent peace dialogue process to help end violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

india Updated: Jan 04, 2007 23:34 IST

Kashmir's main political separatists will visit Pakistan this month to try set up a permanent peace dialogue process to help end a 17-year violence in Jammu and Kashmir, a top leader said on Thursday.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said his team would hold talks with Pakistani groups about President Pervez Musharraf's proposals for a phased plan to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Hurriyat leaders could also hold talks with terrorist groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir during the visit which is expected to last for about a week starting January 15, he said.

The planned Hurriyat trip will begin two days after a visit to Islamabad by Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee who is expected to hold talks with Pakistani leaders to boost a fragile peace process between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

"This time we will focus not only on the government of Pakistan but we will also talk to the political parties of Pakistan about the proposed suggestions by Musharraf and discussing our own suggestions," Farooq said.

"How to institutionalise the (dialogue) process, how to try and find a common minimum programme between the parties on this side of Kashmir and parties on that side of Kashmir ... that will be the focus," he said by phone from Srinagar, the main city of Jammu and Kashmir.

The visit to Pakistan will be the second for Farooq, who is also the chief cleric of Kashmir, since India and Pakistan launched new moves in 2003 to make peace.

Some senior Hurriyat leaders who are likely to accompany him have also made a separate trip across the border. Hurriyat bands about two dozen political separatist groups.

Irish model

Kashmir is at the heart of six decades of rivalry between India and Pakistan and the cause of two of their three wars.

A separatist revolt in Jammu and Kashmir has killed more than 40,000 people since 1989, according to officials. Human rights activists put the toll at around 60,000 dead or missing.

The India-Pakistan peace talks launched in early 2004 and negotiations separately between Kashmiri separatists and the governments of the two countries have made slow progress.

Last month, Musharraf said Pakistan would abandon its claim to the region if India agreed to give the territory autonomy under joint supervision by both countries.

New Delhi welcomed the proposal saying it could be discussed during formal peace talks between the two sides.

Farooq, who visited Northern Ireland last month to study the Irish peace process, said resolution of the Irish conflict could be the way forward for Kashmir too.

A landmark agreement in 1998 sought to end the Irish conflict which killed more than 3,600 people. The power-sharing accord created a Northern Ireland Assembly and last July, the Irish Republican Army downed its arms.

Farooq said all parts of Kashmir should be able to govern themselves and the region should be demilitarised.

"Then there can be certain issues which India and Pakistan can jointly manage which might range from water to defence or foreign affairs. This is something which is workable," he said.

First Published: Jan 04, 2007 21:07 IST