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India Appoints New Envoy to Kashmir

Kashmiri protesters run for cover as Indian police use tear smoke to disperse protesters during a clash in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Oct. 16, 2017.

India has appointed a new envoy to Kashmir in the hope of promoting peace in the troubled region.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh says former Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma has been designated to open talks with Kashmir's various factions - the first such appointment by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"As a representative of government of India, ... Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of the people of Kashmir," Singh said in New Delhi.

There was no indication Pakistan would be involved in the peace talks.

Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah, an outspoken critic of the Indian government, said he would keep an open mind about the new appointment and "wait to see results of the dialogue process."

Kashmir has been the center of a deadly tug-of-war between India and neighboring Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. The Muslim-majority Himalayan territory is divided between the nuclear-armed rivals, but both claim Kashmir in full.

Kashmir rebels have battled Indian forces for decades, demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan. The rebels have staged a series of attacks on Indian security bases in recent months, including an attack in southern Kashmir in August that left eight security officials dead.