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PM tells Hurriyat not to set terms

Nov. 18: The Hurriyat Conference today insisted on permission to visit Pakistan as well as a formal invitation for talks with the Centre but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said there should be no conditions.

Asking the separatist conglomerate not to play politics of prestige and sit on conditions for resuming dialogue with the Centre, he said: 'When I am not laying down any condition for talks, why should they insist on a visit to Pakistan or an invite' That is not fair. I have urged one and all, including those outside the political system, to come and talk,' he said.

Earlier in the day, Hurriyat leaders had said they need a formal invitation to resume the dialogue with the Centre. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, the head of the moderate faction, also demanded an assurance that the leaders would be allowed to travel to Pakistan for talks.

'We want to clarify that going to Pakistan is not a condition laid by us for continuing talks with the Centre. We are ready to meet government (of India) prior to going to Islamabad if the government so desires,' he said. But he added that visiting Pakistan is a requirement for a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue.

Echoing him, senior leader Abdul Gani Bhat said: 'Never call it a condition. It is a requirement rooted in realism. Pakistan is a party to the dispute and then more importantly there are Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) who have to be taken into confidence.'

Pakistan suggested today that the neighbours should look for a solution beyond their stated positions.

Reacting to Singh's assertion yesterday that Kashmir is an integral part of India, Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Masood Khan said: 'I think we know the stated positions of Pakistan and India. Right now, we are looking for some political space, some area where we can make progress. While the statements being made are traditional positions, efforts are also being made to explore new avenues to look for options.'

He added: 'All possible options for a negotiated settlement should be looked at. We have to move beyond stated positions.'

But Singh made it clear that redrawing of the borders and a second Partition were not acceptable. The status of the international border is non-negotiable and any further division on the basis of religion is equally reprehensible, he said.

Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri reacted angrily to the assertion. 'Pakistan-India relations are at a very delicate stage at the moment and require careful nurturing through avoidance of statements, which could prove counterproductive to the ongoing dialogue process,' he said in Islamabad.

'I am unable to understand why was it necessary to say things that could have a negative and dampening impact on the enthusiasm of the people of Pakistan and India and Kashmiris across the Line of Control (LoC).'

But Singh insisted that there was wide scope for dialogue. 'I still believe it is possible to have purposeful and meaningful negotiations within limits I have set,' he told a news conference in Jammu, wrapping up his two-day visit to the state.

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