Kashmir cools off, but peace still distant

May 29, 2008

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With the world’s attention focused on the hunt for al Qaeda and the Taliban along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, the 19-year conflict in Kashmir to its east has slipped off the radar.
 
But Kashmir, which former U.S. President Bill Clinton once said was one of the most dangerous places on earth, has just crossed a milestone with the number of people dying in the fighting falling below 1,000 a year.

Seen purely in terms of fatalities, Kashmir is now classed as a “low-intensity conflict” says the New Delhi-based Institute for  Conflict Management which tracks deaths due to militant-related violence across South Asia.
 
Last year was a watershed for Kashmir when the number of civilians, securitymen and militants killed in the conflict fell to 777, down from a high of 4,507 in 2001. The decreasing  trend continues this year with 192 people killed until May.
 
Just to put things in perspective, the comparable figure for Iraq was 13,600 according to the latest U.S. State Department’s annual terrorism report released last month, about 6,000 for Afghanistan and 4,000 in Sri Lanka’s civil war according to Reuters reporters in the two countries.
 
So is peace at hand in Kashmir and has the  stage been set for a “grand reconciliation” that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke about after talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee in Islamabad last week ?
 
Not quite. The talks, resuming after a year because of political crises in Pakistan, themselves did not throw up any new ideas, much less suggest a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Indeed if anything Pakistan’s new leaders are calling a set of “out-of-the box” proposals that President Pervez Musharraf made as ‘half-baked.”"

And in the Kashmir valley itself, for the all  improved statistics, the mood is hardly upbeat.

Yasin Malik

Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, says the violence can get worse,  as it did in the 1990s, if India and Pakistan don’t find a solution soon.  He spoke of a mood of  “despondency” as Kashmiris watch leaders from India and Pakistan meeting every now and then, without moving an inch forward on the 60-year-old dispute.

Even Omar Abdullah, the head of Kashmir’s  main political party, the National Conference, says the talks are simply going nowhere. “We have had enough gestures over the years, and are surely not looking for more gestures. We need substantive progress aimed at finding a lasting solution to the problem of Kashmir,” he told the Khaleej Times.

An article in the Pakistan Observer this week said the India-Pakistan talks were more about conflict management than conflict resolution, warning that patience was running thin.
 
(For a guest contribution from Kashmir posted in March please see here.) 
 

3 comments

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talks on kashmir will yield no results….kashmiris suffered a lot and are still continuing to get their wounds heeled.talks have been going on everlastingly God knws when we will see some action.

Posted by aroop | Report as abusive

I do feel strongly for kashmiris that they are suffering…and they should be the one deciding which country Kashmir belongs to…
But I also feel Indian leaders have failed to take a strong stance on this matter…if I think of it as my own home..where I had to divide and give some rooms to somebody(though they are also my people..my brother..but we had a fight…)and now for years they are fighting that my garden also belongs to them…What would I do?…
>say donot fight..take it away?..
>ask the gardener where he prefers to live?(he just wants peace here)
>talk to the neighbour and reach a decision.(all talks failed)..
>take a stern stance and tell my neighbour..I had enough…stay with in your boundries…?

Posted by MG | Report as abusive

I think Pakistan should stop trying to interfere in Indian Kashmir and solve problems of its own people instead.You are bankrupting yourself trying to fight us.You should decide do you hate India more than you love Pakistan?
A polite reminder:
Pakistan Industrial growth:3.2%
Inflation:19.8%
(May 2008,source: Economist)

I suggest you slash your defence budget to ~2% of GDP and use the money to educate children who would otherwise have no choice but to fill the madarsas and then in 10-15 years have a trade rather than aid oriented economy.Believe me its no easy job.

Posted by Shantanu Chatterjee | Report as abusive