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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"The initiative is worth a try"
 real 28k

Friday, 4 August, 2000, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Pakistan 'linked to Kashmir killings'
Representatives of Indian government and Hizbul at a meeting
India is holding ceasefire talks with Hizbul Mujahideen
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has accused a Pakistan-based militant group of carrying out massacres that left more than 90 people dead in Indian-administered Kashmir.

He told the parliament that the arms and ammunitions recovered from the massacre sites "clearly establish their links with Lashkar-e-Toiba."

Talking peace
Hizbul Mujahideen - the largest Kashmiri militant group - announced ceasefire last week.
Staying out
Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and about 15 other groups have rejected the ceasefire.

The group, which opposes a political settlement in Kashmir, has denied any involvement in the massacres.

On Thursday, Mr Vajpayee led a 10-member parliamentary delegation to Pahalgam, where suspected militants had gunned down 30 people this week.

He told the parliament that the purpose of the visit had been to assure the people of Kashmir that the entire nation stood by them at this hour.

Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister George Fernandes and communist leader Somnath Chatterjee were among the members of this delegation.

Mr Vajpayee said New Delhi would continue its fight against terrorism, but efforts to restore peace in the insurgency-affected state would continue.

Indian PM Atal Behari Vajpayee in Pahalgam
Vajpayee: Violence is futile
India began tentative talks on Thursday with the representatives of Hizbul Mujahideen, a prominent Kashmiri militant group.

The group announced a unilateral ceasefire last week.

"Other groups which have chosen the path of violence should also realise that the people of Jammu and Kashmir want peace," the prime minister said.

"It is futile for them to continue on the path of violence. They should come forward for talks with the government for redressal of their grievances."

Ceasefire talks

Representatives of the Indian government and Hizbul Mujahideen decided to set a committee to establish the ground rules for the Hizbul ceasefire.

The decision was taken after the first round of informal talks between the two sides.

The Indian prime minister ruled out any Pakistani involvement in the talks.

In a significant development, Mr Vajpayee also said that the main touchstone for peace talks should not be the Indian constitution - which precludes discussion of Kashmir's secession - but "insaniyat" (humanity) instead.

A Hindu holy man at Delhi railway station
Violence in Pahalgam has forced Hindu pilgrims to flee
"Leave the constitution. Talks should be held within the limits of insaniyat so that violence is stopped and no more blood is shed."

Meanwhile, protests continue in various cities against this week's massacre of more than 90 people in India-administered Kashmir.

The strikes, called by Hindu groups, has the support of Mr Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in some states.

Hardline factions within the BJP are opposed to talks with militant groups.

More than 25,000 people have been killed since 1989, when the separatist struggle in Jammu and Kashmir began.

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See also:

04 Aug 00 | South Asia
Violent 'army of the pure'
03 Aug 00 | South Asia
Kashmir talks make progress
05 Aug 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Chance for peace in Kashmir?
02 Aug 00 | South Asia
Kashmir spirals into violence
28 Jul 00 | South Asia
India appeals to militants
26 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir truce condemned
24 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir militants offer ceasefire
02 Aug 00 | South Asia
Former diplomats urge peace
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