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PM amenable to talks to ease Kashmir situation: Mehbooba

PTI | New Delhi |

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Muftion Monday said the prime minister appears amenable to holding talks with stake holders in a bid to arrest the deteriorating situation in the Valley.

However, she cautioned, that "an atmosphere needs to be created" for a dialogue.

"Talks cannot happen amid stone pelting and firing of bullets," she told reporters after a 20-minute meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence.

At the meeting, she invoked former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's policy on Kashmir, and said the thread should be picked up from where he had left off — an apparent suggestion for talks with separatists.

"The prime minister has an intention of holding talks after the situation becomes normal," Mehbooba told reporters.

Kashmir is in the grip of increased violence since the April 9 by-poll for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. The security forces are under intense pressure as they are faced with almost daily protests and stone-pelting.

The army and the CRPF have received some praise for showing restraint under provocation, and also come under criticism, especially after a video showed a civilian tied to a jeep as a human shield as it drove through the streets to avoid being attacked.

"Talks are the only option," Mehbooba said."How long can you have a confrontation?"

"Talks with Hurriyat (Conference) had taken place when Vajpayee ji was the Prime Minister and L K Advani ji was the Deputy Prime Minister. We need to start from where Vajpayee ji had left, otherwise there is no scope of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir improving," she said.

"Modi ji said he is following the footsteps of Vajpayee ji. Vajpayee ji's policy was reconciliation, not of confrontation," Mehbooba added.

Referring to the increase in stone-pelting incidents in the Valley, she said there were some young people who were "disillusioned" while some were being "instigated", often through the use of social media sites such as Facebook and Whatsapp.

Rising tensions between the coalition partners, the PDP and the BJP, over the handling of the security situation in Kashmir also came up at the meeting.

The coalition also came under strain when the PDP lost a seat in the recently held MLC polls when an independent MLA voted in favour of BJP candidate Vikram Randhawa, leading to his victory.

"Whatever happened should not have taken place. But this is an internal matter and we will resolve it with the BJP," she said.

She also raised the Indus water treaty issue, saying it was causing a huge loss of Rs 20,000 crore to the state.

Mehbooba said the prime minister assured her that efforts would be made to see how the state would be compensated for this.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said the situation in Kashmir would be discussed in a meeting of the Unified Command tomorrow.

The GOC-in-C Northern Command, GOC 16 Corps, GOC 15 corps, DGP J&K, IG BSF, IG CRPF, senior officers of the IB and RAW and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh will also participate in the meeting in Srinagar.