Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Centre ready for talks on Kashmir: Chidambaram

Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday set the stage for talks on the Kashmir issue saying, "New Delhi is ready to talk to all shades of opinion to find a solution to the political dimension of the problem".

Without naming any separatist group or any regional political party, Chidambaram dropped first broad hints at resumption of the dialogue process.

"Jammu and Kashmir has unique geographical identity and history, which will be considered while pursuing a solution to the problem," said Chidambaram.

The Home Minister is in Srinagar on a two-day visit and is scheduled to speak at the editors meet on Wednesday.

He stressed that New Delhi is committed to a solution to the political dimension of Kashmir. "I have come with open mind…have no baggage. I am here to listen to and absorb suggestion from different groups," said the Home Minister, who spoke to party workers for the first time at Srinagar's Congress office located in Lal Chowk.

Observors see the statement as ground-preparing exercise by the Centre ahead of Prime Minister Manmoham Singh's scheduled visit to Kashmir on October 27. The Prime Minister is likely to offer an invitation to separatists groups to enter into a dialogue to discuss the Kashmir issue.

"There is no problem in the world which cannot be solved. There were many issues like Jammu and Kashmir across the globe, even in other parts of the country…and such issues have been resolved," said Chidamabarm adding any solution to the problem should be acceptable to all.

The Home Minister sounded very positive on the security situation of the state. "There is tremendous decrease in infiltration, civilian and police deaths and also in militant attacks in Jammu and Kashmir," said Chidambaram.

He praised local police for "effectively tackling militancy" in the state. "If police chief asks me for bigger role I am ready. We can move the army to the borders and the paramilitary can assist the police in countering militancy," said Chidamabaram.

This was a long pending demand of both the People's Democratic Party and the ruling National Conference that security should be handed over to local police and army should be sent to barracks.

The Home Minister was critical of the state government on its failure to spend developmental fund released under the Prime Minister's Reconstruction Plan. The state has been allocated 25,000 crore under the plan. The Home Minister said he would monitor the plan himself and hold a weekly meeting to gauge the progress.

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