May 2001 News

Hopes for peace dim in Kashmir

18 May 2001
The Indian Express

New Delhi: Sometime in the next few days the Government must announce whether or not its 'suspension of active hostilities" against militants in Kashmir will be extended for a fourth time. Either way, it will make little difference. Since Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's initiative - generously referred to as a ceasefire - went into force six months ago, there has been no let-up in the bloodshed that has Kashmir Valley since the end of 1989. The death toll among the security forces at the end of April was 214, over 17 percent up on the previous five months. More than 400 civilians were killed over the same period. Among the militants, the death toll fell - despite an unprecedented frenzy of suicide attacks on military and police camps. "There is no military or political point in maintaining the suspension of active hostilities," says Brian Cloughley, former deputy chief of the UN Observer Group to India and Pakistan. "The militants have ignored it and security forces have, bit by bit, been forced into offensive action rather than maintaining the essentially reactive posture envisaged by the government." "Internationally, after the first approving nods concerning the initiative, it has been realised that for Kashmir it is business as usual: the killing goes on, and on, and on." Vajpayee might just extend the ceasefire. But only because he has no other workable peace plan up his sleeve. In the first weeks of the truce there was enormous relief in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The plan to win the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people appeared to be bringing dividends.


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