New Kashmir Violence Seen As A Reaction To Talks
8 July 2004
Srinagar: Violence has killed 74 people in the past week in India's insurgency- torn region of Kashmir, but its top elected official said the fighting was a reaction to nascent peace moves and reconciliation efforts must not stop. Dozens have also been wounded this month in the Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan. The fighting comes just about two weeks before the foreign ministers of the nuclear-armed rivals hold talks. 'The only way is the process of reconciliation,' Mufti Mohammad Syed, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. 'But there will be ups and downs. It is a very tortuous process. 'I don't think there is any other way,' Syed added. Tens of thousands of people have died since Muslim militants in Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state, began a revolt against New Delhi's rule in 1989. New Delhi has held talks with moderates among the Kashmiri separatists, although there has been little progress. Syed, who was the federal interior minister when the insurgency began 15 years ago, said any peace moves inevitably led to an upsurge in violence. 'This has happened in the past,' he said. Local officials say militant groups try to torpedo any peace moves since an understanding between the two governments would adversely affect their movement. 'People have gone through this process since the last 56 years and many, many attempts at reconciliation were made but ultimately they failed,' Syed said, as he puffed on a pipe in his heavily guarded, wood- panelled home in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital. The dispute over Kashmir has led to two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since they won freedom from Britain in 1947. They almost went to war a fourth time in 2002 over India's charges that Pakistan was arming and training Kashmiri militants. But the two countries have started peace moves in earnest this year and their senior diplomats have been laying the ground for talks between their foreign ministers on the sidelines of a regional meeting on July 20 and 21. Although no quick breakthrough is expected, the rapprochement has led to considerable easing of tension along the India-Pakistan border. But Syed said Kashmiris were less optimistic, because of the number of times peace moves had given way to renewed hostility. Indian security agencies also say infiltration of rebels into Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani side had fallen during the winter but has gained momentum since May and June when the snow blocking Himalayan passes melts, allowing rebels easier access. Syed said Pakistan should try to reduce this infiltration. He also said support for the militancy would fall if Kashmiris saw tangible progress in peace negotiations. 'This process should move forward,' Syed said. 'I don't think it will be solved in one go. But people should see movement.'