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Chidambaram, Pranab to be part of all-party delegation visiting Kashmir

By Abdul Nisar

New Delhi, Sep 17 (ANI): Congress Party has decided to send Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as part of an all-party delegation to Jammu and Kashmir next week, apparently to impart greater stature to the visit.

The decision was taken after a meeting held by Congress President Sonia Gandhi along with Chidambaram, Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan and President of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee Saifuddin Soz.

The meeting took place a day after Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi reviewed the situation at the meeting of the Congress Core Group in Kashmir on Thursday and finalise the modalities of the all-party delegation that is to begin a visit to the Valley on Monday.

The delegation would offer an opportunity to all interested stakeholders, be it mainstream state parties or separatists, to air their grievances and suggest ways for redressal.

The delegation, which will be in the state for three days, will visit both Jammu and Srinagar to hear problems specific to each of the two regions.

Members of the delegation will gather various shades of opinion on the current situation in the state.

It has further been reported that as many as 39 parties will be part of the delegation.

The feedback from the delegation would form an important input for the Centre to evolve its response to various issues relating to the State.

Earlier on Wednesday, a cross section of leaders decided after an all-party meeting held in New Delhi on the Kashmir issue, to send an all-party delegation to find a solution to end the violence in the Kashmir Valley.

Though no consensus emerged on key issues that formed the agenda of the over five-hour-long marathon meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, political leaders expressed satisfaction with the tone and tenor of the deliberations.

Removal or amending the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will not be under consideration for now, as the leaders said that efforts to restore peace must be given a chance to succeed.

Earlier the Central Government had issued an official statement that acknowledged a "governance-deficit" in Jammu and Kashmir.

Reading out a statement issued at the end of the all-party meeting on Thursday , Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: "Leaders of various political parties who attended today's meeting made valuable suggestions on ways and means to resolve the vexed issues that face us in Jammu and Kashmir."

"They agreed that the Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations. The meeting resolved to send an all-party delegation to Jammu and Kashmir. The leaders agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion," he added.

Chidambaram further said the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir would facilitate the visit of the all-party delegation.

The death toll from the violence in the Kashmir Valley has crossed the 90 mark in the last three months.

Clashes between stone-pelters and security forces have become a near-daily feature in the streets. (ANI)

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