Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kashmir's moderate separatist leaders have agreed to establish a system to discuss a solution to the long-running territorial dispute.
The agreement came at Wednesday's talks between Mr.Singh and leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella alliance of moderate separatist groups.
Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq told reporters the two sides have agreed to develop a mechanism to discuss specifics on how to achieve a peaceful and lasting settlement of the issue. Wednesday's talks come ahead of the government's all-party Kashmir roundtable set for May 25th.
Hours before the meeting, a gunbattle between troops and Kashmiri militants outside Srinagar killed three militants and three soldiers. This week's massacre of 34 Hindus by suspected Islamist rebels in Jammu region also cast a shadow on the talks.
India controls two-thirds of Kashmir and Pakistan the rest, but both claim the entire region. Muslim separatists in Indian Kashmir are fighting for its independence or its merger with Pakistan. The countries have fought two wars over the Himalayan region but are now engaged in peace talks.