Boldly inviting Kashmir rebels into no-conditions peace talks, India’s prime minister moved to break a deadlock in an 8-year-old civil war that has killed thousands in India’s remote Himalayas.
Kashmir separatists cautiously greeted the overture as a possible breakthrough for peace; Indian nationalists called it surrender.
Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral’s offer Saturday was the first time an Indian leader agreed to unconditional talks with the militants since the Muslim uprising erupted in 1989. The ensuing violence has killed more than 15,000 people. The uprising also led to the kidnapping of Spokane resident Donald Hutchings two years ago. His fate remains unknown.
Kashmir was carved up between Pakistan and India shortly after the end of British rule over the subcontinent in 1947. Rebels are fighting either for a Muslim homeland independent of the predominantly Hindu India, or to join neighboring Islamic Pakistan.