India's Modi consults parties on Kashmir flare-up, separatists cold

August 12, 2016 7:04 AM EDT

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the monsoon session in New Delhi, India, July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi


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By Tommy Wilkes and Fayaz Bukhari

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - India's prime minister met national party leaders on Friday to seek ways to end weeks of unrest in Kashmir, but a separatist group said there would be no peace until Indian politicians stop treating it as a purely internal issue.

Indian security forces killed a militant leader on July 8, sparking violent protests across the Himalayan region, which is split into areas ruled by India and Pakistan. Both countries claim sovereignty of all of Kashmir.

Police extended a curfew in parts of the Muslim-majority territory for a 35th day on Friday and mobile telephone networks were suspended from late on Thursday due to worries about fresh violence following Friday prayers.

National opposition leaders have stepped up calls for an all-party delegation to visit Kashmir for talks with regional leaders.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi maintained a tough line on Friday, telling party leaders in New Delhi that now was not the time to send negotiators and that there must be no compromise on national security.

Modi's BJP rules Kashmir in a power-sharing arrangement with a regional party and has long advocated a tough stance toward the decades-long insurgency.

With 54 protesters killed since early July, one of the two factions of the main separatist alliance, the Hurriyat Conference, said there was no sign of anger abating.

"Unless there is an acknowledgement among all political parties in India that Kashmir is a dispute and not an internal issue and has to be addressed accordingly, there is very little chance of the situation improving or real peace returning," said faction chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Modi's government has shunned talks with Hurriyat and other groups that challenge India's claim, putting on hold peace talks with Pakistan, telling it to first rein in anti-India militants operating from its territory. Pakistan rejects allegations that such militants operate from its soil.

A resolution by India's lower house of parliament on Friday urged steps to restore peace but analyst Ajai Sahni said Modi's government appeared short of ideas on how to achieve that.

"I don't see anything in terms of a strategy," said Sahni, of the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management.

"The government and the separatists are speaking in completely divergent voices."

(This version of the story repeats to add Pakistan's position on militants in ninth paragraph)

(Additional reporting by Rupam Jain, Malini Menon, C.K. Nayak and Douglas Busvine in NEW DELHI and Amjad Ali in ISLAMABAD; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Robin Pomeroy)



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