March 2007 News

PM invites Mufti for talks

18 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service

Jammu: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday spoke to former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Sayeed on the phone and invited him to visit Delhi for talks on the issues that have left him and his People's Democratic Party (PDP) agitated and angry with the Congress.Sayeed has accepted the invitation and might visit Delhi on Tuesday, sources in Jammu said.The prime minister, according to the sources, told Sayeed that the PDP should not take any decision in haste as the issues needed to be resolved through talks rather than be allowed to reach a breaking point. Matters had come to a head following the rejection of the PDP demand for withdrawing Indian Army troops from Kashmir without any delay, rescinding of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and vacation of agricultural and horticultural land and civilian buildings by the security forces. The demands, often dismissed by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad as being untimely and not tenable, were firmly rejected when the prime minister responded to a letter from Sayeed on the issue. In the letter, Manmohan Singh asked PDP to wait till summer for a review of the situation before taking any decision on withdrawing troops. This was because the situation was fluid and could worsen, with intelligence reports warning that terrorist violence could escalate, the prime minister maintained. He also offered to move the troops out of private lands but ruled out the revocation of AFSPA. The PDP has called a meeting of its political affairs committee in Srinagar on March 25 to decide on pulling out of Kashmir's Congress-led coalition in which it is a junior partner.Now, everything hangs on the outcome of the Manmohan Singh-Sayeed talks, the sources maintained.In New Delhi, Congress sources said the invitation to Sayeed has been in the pipeline for the last few days, with the party last week discussing the issue and deciding to leave it to Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.'Given the delicate nature of the issue, the party felt it would be best handled by Gandhi and the prime minister, who, between them, would decide on how it is to be handled,' a Congress functionary said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


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