Hurriyat Conference Chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Sunday said his organisation will respond positively if the Centre initiates meaningful talks with separatists in Kashmir, The Indian Express reported. His statement came a day after Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Saturday said the situation in the state was changing and the leaders of the separatist group were ready for talks with the Centre.

“We are convinced that a way out can only be achieved through talking,” Farooq told the daily. “Dialogue is the only way and that is our consistent stand. Hurriyat has always been in favour of talks as the means of resolution. We have not said anything new. We have always been saying this. As the most affected party with daily killings of our young, we would naturally want peaceful resolution of the issue.”

Farooq claimed the “Hurriyat has engaged with both India and Pakistan in the past” and “are always ready to engage”. In similar comments to the Daily Excelsior newspaper on Friday, Farooq had emphasised that the Centre should take initiative to start the stalled dialogue process in the state. “New Delhi needs to initiate dialogue with the alienated section of Kashmiri society and simultaneously open channels with Pakistan,” he had said. “Similar exercise was done during the Vajpayee era, when despite several obstacles, the process was taken forward at different levels.”

In an interview to earlier this year, Farooq had claimed the leadership’s agenda was only the resolution of the Kashmir dispute based on self-determination. He had also said that the only way to move forward was for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris to engage with each other, and there was no reason for the Indian government to create a problem about this.

Meanwhile, former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah told The Indian Express that his party would welcome any initiative to restart talks. “The JKNC has been consistently and constantly advocating for a dialogue between the Centre and the various stakeholders in the state,” he said. “We hope that the solid mandate PM Modi received will encourage him to look at treating J&K differently this time as compared to his first term.”

The Peoples Democratic Party also backed dialogue between the Centre and separatists. “We have always been for dialogue, but it has to be purposeful,” said former Cabinet minister Naeem Akhtar. “An opportunity was lost in 2016 but this is the only way forward, talking to all stakeholders, while J&K’s identity is preserved with regard to special status.”

Former bureaucrat and Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement President Shah Faesal expressed hope that dialogue would begin again since the elections were now over. “Dialogue has been a critical missing ingredient from the central government’s Kashmir policy in the last five years, and now that the present government has the benefit of hindsight, we hope that dialogue can resume now,” he added.

The last time the Hurriyat leaders had held talks with the Centre was in 2004, when the National Democratic Alliance was in power. In 2005, they met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but there were no formal discussions. The talks have not progressed since then.