India Says Level Of Violence In Kashmir Declines
4 May 2005
New Delhi: The level of violence in Indian Kashmir, battered by a separatist revolt for more than 15 years, declined considerably in 2004 over the previous year, the interior ministry said on Wednesday. An annual report of the ministry said the number of violent incidents reported in 2004 fell to 707 from 3,041 in the previous year in the Himalayan territory, over which nuclear rivals India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars. 'Fairly encouraging polling percent of 35.21 in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) elections and an increase in the number of tourists to the Kashmir valley were indicators suggesting improvement in the security situation,' it said. More than 45,000 people have died in the revolt against New Delhi's rule in the territory where, despite the new push for peace between India and Pakistan, there are regular gunbattles between Indian forces and Muslim guerrillas. Recent peace moves between India and Pakistan, both of whom claim the region in its entirety, have fuelled hopes of an increase in the number of tourists to the stunningly beautiful valley this summer. Kashmiri officials say they are expecting more than half a million visitors for the season, up from last year's 350,000. That is still much fewer than the nearly 1 million tourists who visited Kashmir each year before a rebellion broke out in late 1989 against Indian rule in the mostly Muslim region. Kashmir, at the heart of more than half a century of enmity between India and Pakistan, was once one of Asia's major tourist destinations, a haven for honeymooners, trekkers, skiers and film makers. The report said violence had also declined in India's revolt-racked northeast following a series of agreements between rebel groups and the government.