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India-Kashmiri separatists to hold talks


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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- After years of refusing to talk with Kashmiri separatist groups, India said it will hold negotiations with a moderate alliance in the troubled region.

Following a two-hour meeting of the government's Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Wednesday, a senior Indian official said Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani will lead the talks with the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance that brings together moderate Kashmiri religious and political groups.

The official said the talks will take place sometime after the Diwali religious festival, which will be celebrated across India this coming weekend.

In August, the Hurriyat called for talks with New Delhi -- a divisive move within the alliance. Some in the Hurriyat said talks could only take place with top Indian leadership, while others said negotiations would have to include Pakistan, the third party in the conflict.

The Hurriyat has since split into two factions, with the more hard-line leaders saying any talks would have to be unconditional.

The Hurriyat refuses to recognize India's sovereignty over Kashmir, but has shunned the violence of militant groups fighting Indian rule in the region. Tens of thousands of people have died in Kashmir since the separatist revolt turned violent in 1989.

New Delhi says Pakistan is behind the violence, a charge Islamabad denies.

The head of one Hurriyat faction responded cautiously to the latest development.

Moulvi Abbas Ansari told CNN the "talks should be meaningful -- to resolve the Kashmir issue." An executive group of the alliance will hold a meeting to consider the Indian government's offer, Ansari said.

India has said that Kashmir is an internal issue, while Pakistan considers the region to be a disputed territory.

In 1948, months after British India was divided into independent India and the new state of Pakistan, the Hindu king of Kashmir acceded to Indian rule in return for military protection from New Delhi. India and Pakistan have since fought two wars and one limited conflict over Kashmir.


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