Kashmiris Say Let Down By Peace Talks With Delhi
6 September 2005
Srinagar: Kashmiris said on Tuesday they were disappointed that long-awaited peace talks between New Delhi and the disputed region's political separatists failed to produce a breakthrough. But analysts said the first meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference on Monday was positive and both sides had a long way to go before a solution to the decades-old problem could be found. Monday's talks ended with Singh assuring Hurriyat leaders that India would cut troop levels in the heavily militarised region if insurgent violence and guerrilla incursions from Pakistan ceased. Singh also promised to review cases of people held under various anti- terror laws in Kashmir and safeguard human rights. But on Tuesday, Kashmiri police charged a hardline women's separatist leader and a dozen of her followers under a tough public safety law, drawing strong condemnation from Hurriyat. Asiya Andrabi, wife of a militant leader and chief of the Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of the Muslim Faith), was arrested last week for raiding hotels, restaurants and wine shops to stamp out 'flesh trade' and check moral decline. 'This exposes the duplicity of Indian politicians,' a Hurriyat statement said. 'On one hand they are talking of confidence-building measures and peace talks. On the other hand they arrest freedom-loving leaders.' 'This is clear proof that some vested interests are bent upon jeopardising this entire process.' Indian government officials were unavailable for immediate comment. Kashmiris said they had expected an announcement on an immediate cut in troop levels. 'It is unfortunate that the government has put a condition on the reduction of troops,' said businessman Tanveer Ahmad. 'I was expecting more than this.' 'CORE NOT ADDRESSED' An estimated 500,000 Indian soldiers are deployed in Kashmir to combat an Islamic insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people since late 1989. The troops have been blamed for human rights violations, and Pakistani and Kashmiri leaders have long wanted New Delhi to reduce the number of security forces. College student Farooq Ahmad said the talks had failed to tackle the core problem of Kashmir. 'There was no word on the dispute which is the root cause of the problem,' he said. Kashmir is at the heart of decades of enmity between India and Pakistan, both of which administer a part of the region but claim it in full. The nuclear- armed neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the scenic Himalayan region and came close to a fourth in 2002. Although ties have warmed since the neighbours launched a new bid to make peace two years ago, they are nowhere near finding a solution to the Kashmir dispute. There was a fall in militant attacks and incursions coinciding with the peace process but both have increased since the onset of summer in June. 'We live each day in the hope that the violence and mayhem which takes place here every day ends so that security forces can go back to their barracks and let us live in peace,' said Raouf Ahmad, a Srinagar vegetable hawker. Analysts stressed that Monday's talks were only the beginning. 'As a preliminary meeting with the new prime minister, it had a positive outcome as they have decided to meet again,' said Kalim Bahadur, a South Asia commentator.