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Indian PM Makes Fresh Offer of Dialogue to Pakistan

By Anjana Pasricha
New Delhi
28 October 2009

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered to talk on all issues to rival Pakistan provided it cracks down on terror groups based in the country. The Indian leader, who is visiting Indian Kashmir, also called on separatist groups in the region to join a dialogue with his government.

Inaugurating a rail link in Indian Kashmir's Anantnag district, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India and Pakistan can talk on a range of issues such as trade, and easing of travel procedures for families living across the Himalayan region's divided border.

But Mr. Singh says for a productive dialogue, it is vital for Pakistan to destroy militant groups, their camps and infrastructure on its soil.

The Indian Prime Minister says if Pakistan takes action on this, New Delhi will not be found wanting in its response.

The offer of talks comes nearly a year after New Delhi virtually put on hold a peace dialogue between the two countries following last year's terror attacks in Mumbai, which India blamed on terrorists based in Pakistan.

Mr. Singh said the five-year-old peace process has been repeatedly setback by terror attacks in India.

The peace dialogue had lowered tensions between the rivals, but has flagged amid repeated Indian accusations that Pakistan is not doing enough to clamp down on terror groups operating from the country.

Kashmir is split between the two countries, which have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.

Speaking amid tight security, the Indian leader said an era of violence in Kashmir has come to an end, and called on separatist leaders in Kashmir to engage in a dialogue with his government.

Mr. Singh says his government is willing to talk to all people and groups who support the return of peace and development in the state.

Indian Kashmir has been wracked by a two-decade-long separatist insurgency, although levels of violence have sharply dropped in the lpast five years.

A dialogue held in 2006 with separatist leaders opposed to Indian rule failed to produce a breakthrough. But earlier this month, the Indian government said it will launch a new round of "quiet diplomacy" with Kashmiri separatists.

Moderate separatist leaders have welcomed the initiative, but hardline Kashmiri leaders are unlikely to join the dialogue. This was clear on Wednesday - hardline separatists called a general strike to protest the Indian leader's two day visit to the region.

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