All-party delegation to visit Valley; sharp division on AFSPA

Kashmir

The all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir today decided to send a delegation of political leaders to the state to assess the ground situation but failed to arrive at a consensus on the issue of withdrawal or dilution of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The five-and-a-half hour meeting, during which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader L K Advani and leaders of other parties presented their views, however, was unanimous over the need for internal dialogue within the framework of Indian Constitution.

There was sharp division on AFSPA, whose revocation was demanded by PDP and NC but opposed by BJP and some other parties.

At the meeting, Singh and other leaders voiced distress and concern over the continuing violence in the state and the loss of life.

Setting the tone, Singh said the government was willing to talk to anybody or any group which adopts peaceful means but asserted that it could not happen till the end of violence, some of which is "orchestrated by certain groups".

A statement issued at the end of the marathon meeting said the leaders agreed that the Indian Constitution provides ample scope to "accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations."

Accordingly, it was decided that all-party delegation would be sent to Jammu and Kashmir, dates for which were not announced immediately.

"The leaders agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion. The visit of the all-party delegation would be facilitated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir," the statement said.

"The Government will take into account the deliberations at today's meeting while considering measures and initiatives to reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir," it said, adding the feedback received from the all-party delegation would form an important input into the Government's evolving response on various issues relating to the state.

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