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Kashmir Talks End, Indian PM Hopeful


India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has wrapped up two days of roundtable discussions on the Kashmir conflict with promises to improve human rights in the divided region and to review the cases of Muslim militants who want to return home from neighboring Pakistan. The prime minister expressed regret that a key separatist alliance had boycotted the discussions.

The Indian Prime Minister says his government is willing to find ways to interact with anyone involved in the Kashmir conflict, if they renounce violence.

Mr. Singh says security agencies will review the cases of young Muslim militants who have fought against authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir, before fleeing to the Pakistan side. If they give up violence, Mr. Singh says, they should be welcomed home.

"The general principle is that those young people who have been misled and have gone to the other side, but now they do want to come back and lead a life of normalcy, there should be scope to permit that option for these young people," he said.

The prime minister also told Indian troops in Kashmir that there should be "zero tolerance" for human-rights abuses by security forces, which analysts say have fueled the Kashmir conflict.

Mr. Singh made his comments at the close of a two-day roundtable discussion with political groups in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The region is claimed by both India and Pakistan. India holds about two-thirds of the border region, where it has been fighting an insurgency by Islamic militants since 1989.

The militant groups want the predominantly Muslim region to be independent, or to merge with Pakistan, which controls the remaining third.

Security in Kashmir's summer capital, Srinigar, where talks were held, was extremely high. But suspected militants carried out a number of grenade attacks, injuring at least 30 people.

Militant leaders ridiculed the talks, which they say will accomplish little until they are brought into discussions. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of several separatist groups, boycotted the meeting - demanding that they be allowed to meet with the prime minister separately.

Mr. Singh said that he regretted that decision.

"I do hope, and I think they would also recognize that it is to their advantage, and to the advantage of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir that we must put all the wisdom, knowledge and experience that is available in this beautiful state to put an end to this sad chapter of the past," he added.

Mr. Singh also announced the formation of five working groups for Kashmir aimed at improving the economy and developing stronger relations between the central government and local groups.

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