India urged to reduce military presence in Kashmir3 June 2010
SRINAGAR: India should reduce its massive military presence in occupied Kashmir, boost its economy, and give more powers to elected officials to improve the lives of people in the troubled Himalayan region, an international security think tank said on Thursday. 'Replacing military-led counter-insurgency with accountable policing and reviving an economy devastated by violence and conflict, would instil greater confidence among Kashmiris,' the International Crisis Group said in a report titled 'Steps Towards Peace Putting Kashmiris First'. 'It is in New Delhi's interest to be regarded as a sincere partner committed to improving Kashmiri lives, not as an occupying force,' it said. India has an estimated 700,000 soldiers in Kashmir, fighting nearly a dozen militant groups since 1989. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the '89 uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown. The Brussels-based organisation urged New Delhi to devolve authority to Kashmir's elected representatives and take 'other vital steps to win over its alienated public'.The region 'remains heavily militarised, and draconian laws that encourage human rights abuses by security forces remain, fuelling public resentment that the militants could once again exploit,' the report said. Human rights workers have complained for years that innocent people have disappeared, been killed by government forces in staged gunbattles, and suspected militants arrested and never heard from again. 'Another Mumbai-like attack would have a devastating impact on bilateral (Pakistan-India) relations and could conceivably bring the nuclear-armed neighbours to the brink of war,' it added.