National Conference president and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Thursday said the separatist group Hurriyat Conference must be included in negotiations for lasting peace in the restive state, PTI reported. He was speaking at a discussion on “Jammu and Kashmir: The Road Ahead”, organised by the Centre for Peace and Progress in Kolkata.

Abdullah’s comments came after Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday that talks with the Taliban were necessary to protect Indian interests in Afghanistan. On Thursday, Rawat said separatist groups in Kashmir must shun violence before talks are possible. “Our position is very clear – that shun the gun and stop taking support from the western neighbour [Pakistan],” he had added.

The National Conference chief said that the separatist group’s leaders have Indian passports and that several leaders, including former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had involved them in peace talks. “The Army and use of force can never be a solution to the Kashmir crisis and lasting peace can be achieved only through dialogue,” Abdullah said.

The former chief minister suggested that negotiations on the Kashmir matter be resumed after the Lok Sabha polls and added that each election had polarised the country instead of uniting it. “There is mistrust between Delhi and Kashmir and an atmosphere of hate has been created in the country,” he said.