March 16, 1996 in Nation/World

Kashmiri Rebels Discuss Ending War

Compiled From Wire Services

Kashmiri separatists held talks with the government for the first time Friday after six years of fighting, and an official said the rebels were ready to abandon their “gun culture.”

But other Kashmiri leaders questioned the influence of the once-powerful militants, and it was unclear whether the rebels’ one-hour meeting with Home Minister S.B. Chavan could contribute much toward ending the insurgency.

More than 13,000 people have died since the insurrection broke out in December 1989 in Kashmir, the only state in predominantly Hindu India to have a Muslim majority.

“The discussion indicated a change in their attitude,” Chavan said after meeting with nine militant leaders. “They are more or less convinced that the gun culture won’t give them any benefit. They want a negotiated settlement.”

The militants, known as the Forum for the Permanent Resolution of Jammu-Kashmir, called the first round of talks “a welcome beginning.”

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