After India last held state elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002, the Kashmir Valley witnessed a period of relative peace only to see it shattered when plans to give land to Hindu pilgrims triggered the biggest protests since the Kashmir separatist revolt erupted in 1989.
The latest elections - which produced a turnout of more than 60 percent despite a boycott call by separatists and ushered in a new state government led by Omar Abdullah - have provided a second chance to change the mood in the volatile Kashmir Valley. But do India and Pakistan, and the Kashmiris themselves, have the ability to turn this second chance into a real opportunity for peace?
Despite the outrage over the Mumbai attacks, blamed by India on Pakistan-based militants, there are some promising signs. The elections were remarkable for the fact that armed separatists based in Pakistani-held Kashmir made no attempt to disrupt the campaign, as they did during the previous polls in 2002. If Indian assertions are correct that the Pakistani security establishment controls the level of armed separatist activity in Kashmir, then the absence of violence would not have been possible without the active cooperation of Pakistan - a factor acknowledged by The Hindu in an editorial.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has spoken repeatedly of the need to make peace with India, including over Kashmir (as discussed here, here, here and here) and despite widespread scepticism in India that his views are shared by the powerful Pakistan Army, Pakistan does seem to have delivered in keeping the militants at bay during the elections.
Meanwhile trade between the Indian and Pakistan-held parts of the divided former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir has continued even through the heights of the post-Mumbai tensions.