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'J&K terrorists ready for conditional truce'

Hizbul supreme commander Salahuddin says the rebels are ready for a truce if the Centre recognises the Kashmir region as "disputed".

india Updated: Mar 30, 2006 22:22 IST

The chief of an alliance of terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir said that the rebels would consider a truce if the Centre recognises the region as "disputed", a report said on Thursday.

New Delhi says Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and not disputed.

"Not only Hizbul Mujahideen but the entire militant leadership will consider a proposal for truce only if the Indian government acknowledges the disputed and tripartite nature of the Kashmir issue," United Jihad Council chairman Syed Salahuddin told a local news agency in an interview from Pakistan.

Salahuddin is also the supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest terrorist group in Jammu and Kashmir. It declared a ceasefire and started peace talks with the Centre in mid-2000.

But the talks broke down almost immediately because New Delhi refused to include Pakistan in the dialogue.

"Armed confrontation would automatically recede as the dialogue process moves forward," Salahuddin said.

The terrorist groups want Pakistan to a part of a three-way dialogue besides New Delhi and political separatists.

India and Pakistan have made progress in a 26-month-old peace process but have witnessed little headway in the Kashmir issue.

Last week, Pakistan welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer of a "treaty of peace, security and friendship" to replace decades of hostility between the nuclear rivals.

But there has been no response to Singh's offer from the United Jihad Council, which is headed by the Hizbul whose leadership is based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Violence has declined in the Himalayan region since the peace process, but gun battles between security forces and soldiers are a regular occurrence.

First Published: Mar 30, 2006 21:31 IST