Indian Force Says Kashmir Violence Lower This Year
1 November 2004
Srinagar: As New Delhi and Islamabad talk peace, rebel violence has abated in Indian Kashmir this year, with fewer militants crossing over into the revolt-torn region from the Pakistani side. Indian security forces gave themselves the credit for the fall in attacks and cross- border infiltration and said Pakistani authorities were still trying to push guerrillas across a military ceasefire line dividing the disputed region. 'The number of militancy-related incidents came down to 1,500 (so far) in 2004 from 2,100 in the first 10 months of 2003,' K. Srinivasan, a senior Border Security Force (BSF) officer, said on Monday. Hours after his comments, suspected guerrillas hurled a grenade into a crowded market in the region, wounding at least 21 pedestrians, police said. They said the grenade was aimed at a police patrol in town of Shopian, 55 km (35 miles) south of Srinagar, Kashmir's main city, but it missed its target and exploded amid pedestrians. 'When we reached the spot people were crying for help. At least eight are in critical condition,' a police officer said. The BSF, the Indian army and police are involved in counter- insurgency operations in the Himalayan region where more than 40,000 people have been killed in a 15-year revolt against Indian rule. Srinivasan said Indian intelligence estimates show 370 militants crossed into Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani side - crossing the line dividing the region between the nuclear-armed rivals - down from about 1,200 in the first 10 months of 2003. This was an indication Pakistan had not completely halted cross-border incursions by guerrillas, Srinivasan told Reuters. The BSF said in a statement the decline in violence and infiltration was largely due to Indian efforts. India accuses Pakistan of arming, training and sending separatists into Kashmir. Islamabad calls the Kashmir rebellion an indigenous freedom struggle. The peace moves launched last year have made slow progress, particularly over Kashmir, the cause of two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought in the last 50 years. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf this month called for a debate on new ways to resolve the Kashmir row, including a demilitarisation of the region, followed by transition to joint control, U.N. supervision or independence. India responded by saying it expected such ideas to be raised as part of an ongoing dialogue between the two sides. The prime ministers of the two countries are due to meet this month and representatives are expected to hold talks again in January on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in Bangladesh.