Manmohan Singh presides over all party meeting on Kashmir today

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New Delhi, Sep 15 (ANI): Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh presides over an all-party meeting on Kashmir here on Wednesday.

Union Minister of New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah is leading the delegation of the states ruling National Conference. The main opposition group, the People's Democratic Party, is participating in the meeting, which will discuss a whole range of issues, including the decision to withdraw or amend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The Union Government is hoping to use today's meeting to evolve a consensus on restarting dialogue with different sections of people in Jammu and Kashmir. On Monday, the Cabinet Committee on Security met and then decided to convene an all-party meeting.

Prime Minister Singh is expected to make an opening statement at the start of Wednesday's deliberations, and then open the floor to other leaders to make their points of view on the situation prevailing in the state.

Wednesday's meeting is likely to be followed by another meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, where participants are likely to discuss and evolve a series of confidence-building measures for Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister A K Antony has stressed that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is critical for ensuring legal immunity to officers and troops, who are fighting a "proxy war" in states like Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.

He also said a decision on the situation in the Kashmir Valley will be taken by the Centre after Wednesday's all-party meeting.

"Important decisions have to be taken after carefully assessing all aspects," he said.

Antony also appealed to all sides to show restraint.

Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, who is also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, said: "Whatever decision the government takes on AFSPA will be done only after ensuring legal protection to the armed forces."

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti and two other party members - Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Moulvi Iftikhar Ansari are being flown into the capital by special flight to facilitate their participation in today's meeting.

The series of meeting held both in New Delhi and Srinagar over the past several weeks is because of the violence and rising death toll in the Kashmir Valley. At least 75 people have died in the last three months. The valley has also been subjected to a series of shutdowns and frequent curfews during this period. (ANI)

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