December 2007 News

Swiss Peace Foundation Foresees No Breakthrough On Kashmir

20 December 2007

Srinagar: A Switzerland-based conflict-assessment group, Swiss Peace Foundation, has ruled out any substantial breakthrough on the vexed Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. The group has, however, predicted revival of the Indo-Pak peace process and a subsequent decline in violence in Kashmir. In its latest conflict forecast, the group does not anticipate any breakthrough regarding the Kashmir issue. The forecast states, 'No significant developments on Kashmir are expected in the future. As seen in past years, militant violence is likely to decrease during the winter months, (although) an end to violence in Kashmir is not in sight.' However the forecast draws a positive scenario about the future course of the Indo-Pak peace process. 'Indo-Pakistani talks might gain new momentum after the general elections in Pakistan although no major break-through on Kashmir is expected in the coming months. Political violence, militancy, hostility and alliance-building among the major parties might rise before and during the state elections.' It has further reassured that the LoC truce would hold, yet New Delhi's refusal to engage separatists in unconditional talks might deter the efforts to make the violence politically irrelevant. The study has correlated the prospects of peace in Kashmir with the political situation in Pakistan and predicted a positive transition once the political turmoil in that country settles down. It has also commented upon the upcoming election in Kashmir and has argued that these have affected the behavior and public positioning of major political parties and the Kashmiri separatists. The study notes that the tone between the different contestants has become increasingly hostile. The group has quoted security officials to state that the levels of violence in J&K have decreased by 40% (60% in Srinagar city) compared to last year despite continuing efforts of infiltration from across the LoC. At the same time, army officials estimate the number of militants in J&K at only 800 (half of last year) while maintaining that several of the active militants (around 60%) are foreigners. It is difficult to verify whether these figures are accurate. However, the group notes, the recent militant activity has primarily come from Hizbul Mujahideen (mostly made up of Kashmiris), Lashker-e-Toiba and Jaish-e- Mohammad. Data collected by FAST International and South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) confirm the trend of declining militancy- related violence and fatalities compared to previous years. The study further says that the demand for demilitarization has resounding support in Kashmir but 'despite these positive trends, Indian officials and security personnel persistently reject claims for troop reduction.' Fayaz Wani reports on life in Srinagar, Kashmir.


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