The key to the resolution of the Kashmir problem is “a political solution that addresses the alienation and emotional needs of the people,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged on Tuesday at a meeting of political parties from the trouble-torn State, even as he appealed to the people there to “give peace a chance” and urged young people to return to their classrooms.

Simultaneously, he hinted that the government would like to work towards a stage when it would be possible to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), but government sources stressed that there was no question of reviewing it right now.

Dr. Singh said the Centre was prepared to examine the question of greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, but this was qualified by the caveat: “the people have to be convinced that this future has to be grounded in political and economic realities of our time.”

In his first televised address — delivered in chaste Urdu — since the current cycle of violence began in the Valley on June 11, an emotional Dr. Singh admitted the urgent need to promote economic activity so that it would create opportunities for employment — government sources said the lacunae in the current economic package was that it had not created jobs. To this end, he said he would set up an experts group to formulate a jobs plan.

He said the group would be tasked with not only creating employment in the public and private sectors, but also increasing employability through the National Skill Development Mission. The members of the committee, headed by Dr. C. Rangarajan, will be N.R. Narayana Murthy, Tarun Das, P. Nanda Kumar, Shaqueel Qalander and an official representative of the State government.

Realisable vision

The Centre, Dr. Singh said, was ready “to discuss all issues within the bounds of our democratic processes and framework.” A political solution could emerge only through “sustained internal and external dialogue,” he stressed, urging the political parties to carry back “a message of our serious will and intent to solve all problems through dialogue” and “to build a consensus on a practical and realisable vision … the people have to be convinced that this future has to be grounded in political and economic realities of our time.”

Dr. Singh used the occasion of his meeting with the delegation, headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, to reach out to the people of Kashmir through his televised address.

The more than three-hour meet, which started at 6 p.m., and ended with dinner, saw many participants expressing “serious concern” at Mr. Abdullah’s inability to bring the situation under control, and the need for the State government to “engage harder” with the current crisis, sources told The Hindu.

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