Kashmir leader’s remarks spark row

Kashmir leader

India’s government has said it does not agree with the Kashmir chief minister’s remark crediting Pakistan and militants for peaceful state elections.

Correspondents say it is a rocky start to the new coalition in Kashmir.

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) announced the historic power-sharing deal last week.

It marks the first time the Hindu nationalist BJP have been in government in India’s only Muslim majority state.

The swearing-in of the province’s chief minister, the PDP’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.

Soon after the ceremony Mr Sayeed told reporters in Jammu: “I want to say on record and I have told this to the prime minister, that we must credit the [separatist organisation] Hurriyat, Pakistan and militant outfits for the conduct of assembly elections in the state.

“People from across the border made the atmosphere conducive. They also have assets – Hurriyat, militants… if they had done something [during the elections], such a participation of people would not have been possible. This gives us hope,”

His remarks led to uproar in the Indian parliament, with opposition MPs demanding an explanation. Correspondents say Mr Sayeed’s statement is a huge embarrassment for the prime minister.

Opposition walk-out

After the row in parliament on Monday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh distanced the government from the statement.

“The credit for conducive environment for polls in Jammu and Kashmir goes to the Election Commission, our armed forces and people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

The opposition, however, refused to accept the apology and MPs walked out of parliament, saying they wanted the House to adopt a resolution condemning the statement.

Correspondents say the outrage in India over Mr Sayeed’s comments is because Kashmir is a sensitive issue in India – both Delhi and Islamabad claim Kashmir in its entirety. Separatists and militants, often allegedly supported by Pakistan, have opposed Indian forces in the region for the past quarter of a century.

The comments came ahead of a visit to Islamabad by Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar for bilateral talks with Pakistani officials.

Mr Jaishankar will travel to Pakistan on Tuesday, seven months after India cancelled official talks as a result of the Pakistani high commissioner in Delhi consulting Kashmiri separatist leaders.