PM To Visit Kashmir Today, May Invite Separatists For Talks

27 October 2009
Times of India


New Delhi: Security forces were put on maximum alert on Tuesday ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s much-awaited visit to the Valley on Wednesday, during which he is likely to invite Kashmiri separatists to join talks and inaugurate railway’s Anantnag-Qazigund section. Sources said security was further tightened after intelligence inputs that militants were directed to escalate violence during the PM’s visit. His entourage will include UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Railway minister Mamata Banerjee. Hundreds of troops carrying assault rifles erected barriers and patrolled the streets in Anantnag, where Singh would inaugurate the section and address a rally. ‘‘SPG personnel sanitised the rally venue and the 12-km route between Anantnag and Qazigund,’’ a source said. A railway official said there would be no rail service to the town on Wednesday and that all trains from Baramulla would terminate at Bijbehara, some 10-km away, to create a cordon sanitaire. Sources said the PM was keen to make some headway on Kashmir and could offer several confidence building measures like reduction of troops from urban areas and abrogation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Centre’s optimism is bolstered by the huge military successes against terrorists and setbacks separatists faced with the record turnout in last year’s assembly elections. Some see it as an attempt to co-opt the Hurriyat in the backdrop of the recent separatist-backed agitations, which saw some of the biggest rallies in two decades. Analysts believe that these agitations could have been prevented had the Centre offered some concessions to the Hurriyat. The Hurriyat has used these rallies to show its ‘‘representative character’’, more so when the Centre has tried to look the other way.