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 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 16:29 GMT
India promises Kashmir talks
Kashmiri mourners carry the dead
Violence has continued since the assembly polls
India plans to hold wide-ranging talks soon on the Kashmir dispute.

Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani made the announcement during a visit to Jammu, the winter capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Those who did not participate in the polls and were not elected will also be involved

LK Advani
Indian deputy PM
He said talks would start first with elected representatives, but would also include separatists who had not taken part in recent elections.

Mr Advani is the most senior Indian leader to visit the disputed state since its new government took office last month.

The trip follows a recent upsurge in violence between security forces and militants fighting Indian rule.

LK Advani
Advani said peace depended on Pakistan
Mr Advani addressed a news conference after chairing a meeting of state officials and security chiefs.

He told reporters peace talks would begin "very soon".

"Those who did not participate in the polls and were not elected to the state assembly will also be involved in the parlays at a later stage," he added.

He later clarified, however, that there would be no talks with the "proxies of Pakistan".

'Terrorist camps'

Mr Advani, who also heads India's interior ministry, said there was a new opportunity for restoring peace following the state assembly elections.

"The people of the state have experienced real democracy this time. So I feel a new opportunity has been presented to us for restoration of normalcy in the state," he said.

He promised Delhi would give all the help it could to combat militants fighting Indian rule.

And he stressed that the restoration of peace to the region largely depended on the intentions of Pakistan.

He said "terrorist training camps" there had recently been reactivated.

"Infiltration across the Line of Control continues and 60% of the infiltrators are foreign mercenaries," he said.

India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring "cross-border terrorism" in Kashmir.

Pakistan says it gives the militants only moral support, and has promised to end incursions into Indian Kashmir from its territory.

Prisoners freed

All major separatist groups boycotted the September-October Kashmir elections.

The state's new chief minister, who heads a coalition with India's main opposition Congress party, came to power promising an end to human rights abuses and tough anti-terror laws.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed also wants India to hold talks with all shades of Kashmiri opinion and with Pakistan.

The BJP-led government in Delhi has been critical of the new administration's policies, including the release of political prisoners.

Meanwhile, Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes has said it will take the army another six months to remove mines laid along the border with Pakistan during a year-long military stand-off.

The massing of troops came after militants attacked India's parliament and brought the two nuclear-armed neighbours to the brink of war.

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16 Dec 02 | South Asia
23 Dec 02 | South Asia
23 Dec 02 | South Asia
22 Dec 02 | South Asia
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