February 25, 2006 (New Delhi):
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is hosting the first ever roundtable conference on Jammu and Kashmir in the Capital.
About 50 political and ethnic leaders from the state are attending the conference.
In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister hoped that the roundtable is able to start a process by which there can be a workable blueprint for creating a new J&K.
"Let’s construct a new J&K and Ladakh symbolised by peace, prosperity and people power," Singh said.
Singh hoped that those who stayed away from the conference will eventually see the merit in sharing ideas and working together.
The Prime Minister made this veiled reference to the Hurriyat Conference and other separatist groups, who had spurned the offer of joining the conference.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah who is part of the roundtable said that without the inclusion of all concerned parties including the separatists, no real solution could be found to the Kashmir issue.
"There has been a setback and the problem is not between us and New Delhi. It is between the separatists and New Delhi and has to be addressed collectively by New Delhi and the separatists," said Abdullah.
"This is not a law and order issue, it is not an economic issue. It is a political issue and the absence of the separatists is a setback for the Centre," he added.
"Till incidents like Handwara keep happening, it will be difficult to get people to have faith in the government," Abdullah pointed out.
The meet being held in Delhi brought together political leaders from all the three regions of the state – Jammu, Kashmir valley and Ladakh.
Meanwhile, there is anger in the state over the Handwara killings in which four teenagers were killed during a search operation by security forces.
On Friday, a bandh called by separatist organisations to protest the incident brought the Kashmir Valley to a standstill.