NEW DELHI, May 4 (AFP): Muslim separatists and India's prime minister said they would hold more talks on Kashmir after a meeting in which human rights and economic issues in the region were discussed.
The talks at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official residence with moderate leaders of the Hurriyat or "Freedom" alliance are the second since he took office two years ago.
The meeting had been planned for months but was overshadowed by the massacre of 35 Hindus Sunday by suspected Muslim rebels, which was seen as an attempt to thwart the talks.
"We met the prime minister in an effort to ensure a forward movement in the dialogue process and we had frank and fruitful talks covering all important aspects of Jammu and Kashmir and we agreed to work together to ensure an honourable and peaceful settlement to the issue," Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told reporters.
"It was decided to continue the dialogue process."
Singh's spokesman, Sanjaya Baru, hailed the talks which he said covered a wide range of issues including the economy and calls by the separatists to repeal draconian anti-terror laws.
"We have a meeting of minds. This augurs well for the people of Kashmir, of India and of our region," Baru said, reading a statement from the prime minister.
Analysts had warned against high expectations from the talks as troops combed densely forested areas of revolt-hit Indian Kashmir hunting for the killers of the Hindu villagers, the worst such massacre since 2000.
"It's going to be a long haul," said S. Chandrasekharan, of New Delhi's South Asia Analysis Group.
But he said New Delhi "is not going to be deflected" by the massacre." Hours before the talks were due to begin, four rebels and three security men died in gunbattles in Kashmir, the army said.
Violence has risen in Kashmir despite two years of a peace process between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, which both claim the territory and hold it in parts divided by a heavily-militarised ceasefire line.