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India forms coalition in Kashmir

India's ruling party has formed a coalition government in Kashmir, the first time the Hindu nationalist party has held a leadership position in the Muslim-majority disputed region also claimed by Pakistan.

Bharatiya Janata Party and Peoples Democratic Party leaders were sworn into office in the state's winter capital of Jammu amid tight security in a ceremony attended by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

Peoples Democratic Party leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed will be the region's chief minister and the BJP a junior partner in the new government.

No single party managed to win a clear majority needed to form a government in the state during elections, which took place in several phases in November and December.

The PDP emerged as the largest party with 28 seats in the region's 87-strong state legislature, while the BJP got 25 seats, all in Hindu-dominated districts.

Mr Sayeed and Mr Modi finalised the deal at a meeting in New Delhi after prolonged and difficult negotiations. The two parties hold diametrically opposite views on several issues, such as laws that exclude Indian military personnel from criminal prosecution in the violence-wracked Himalayan region.

Traditionally, the BJP has also opposed a special constitutional status for Kashmir which allows the region to make its own laws, while regional parties including the PDP defend it.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, which is divided between the neighbours but claimed in its entirety by both.

Since 1989, rebel groups have been fighting against Indian rule and more than 68,000 people have been killed in the rebel uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.

Incidents of violence have largely been suppressed by Indian forces. However, public opposition to Indian rule remains deep and in recent years has found expression in street protests marked by youths hurling stones at security forces.


From Belfast Telegraph