The chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has died of multiple organ failure at at the age of 79.
Sayeed took up the position for the second time in March last year after forming an alliance with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a junior partner in the government. He previously led the state government between 2002 and 2005.
Sayeed, an ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, died on Thursday in New Delhi after suffering a brief illness, according to leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Nayeem Akhter.
Mufti Sahab's demise leaves a huge void in the nation & in J&K, where his exemplary leadership had a major impact on people's lives. RIP.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 7, 2016
He was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) last month with complaints of neck pain and fever.
His body will be taken to Srinagar, the capital city of Indian-administered Kashmir, for burial in his ancestral village, Akhter added.
“It is a great loss to Kashmir, I am really shocked by his death,” Abdul Rehman Veeri, a senior PDP leader and cabinet minister, said. “He was an exemplary leader.”
Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years.
Sayeed had been pushing for more autonomy for the region within India and a dialogue with Pakistan to settle the territorial dispute which has led to three wars between the South Asian neighbours.
His death threatens to bring political uncertainty to the disputed region at the heart of tension between the two countries.
“It will be very hard to predict the future of political situation in the region at this juncture,” Professor Gul Wani, a political analyst and political science teacher at Kashmir University, told Al Jazeera.
“He was an old tolerant man and knew how to play his cards. It has been seen in past that whenever there is a transition, changes do happen – big or small.”
Sayeed founded the PDP in 1999 to persuade “the Indian government into an unconditional dialogue with the Kashmiri people”.
He advocated a dialogue with Pakistan to settle the Kashmir dispute and sought to promote trade and travel between the divided parts of the Himalayan region.
At the start of the campaign against Indian rule of Kashmir in 1989 – when Sayeed was India’s home minister – rebels abducted one of his daughters who was later freed in exchange for the government releasing five rebels from prison.
Sayeed is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son. Mehbooba Mufti, one of his daughters, is expected to succeed him.