Militants threaten to disrupt Kashmir peace talks
20 May 2006
The Daily Times
Srinagar: Islamist militants threatened on Saturday to disrupt a Kashmir peace conference in the disputed Himalayan region next week that will be chaired by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The meeting is the second such gathering since February. It has been called by New Delhi to widen the dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir, where a separatist revolt against Indian rule by Muslim militants since 1989 has killed more than 45,000 people. Singh is scheduled to attend the meeting in Srinagar, the summer capital of the region, on the opening day, May 24. “We have made all arrangements to disrupt the round table conference. Kashmir is a disputed territory, the prime minister of India cannot hold such conferences here,” four groups said in a media release. “All the separatist political leadership should stay away from the conference. It is aimed at misleading the international community,” Al Nasireen, Save Kashmir Movement, Al Arifeen and Farzandan-e-Milat said in a fax to newspaper offices in Srinagar. Intelligence officials said the groups were likely to be a front for bigger organisations such as the Pakistan-based Islamist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. Separatist political groups boycotted the first round in New Delhi and it was unclear whether they would take part this time. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a senior separatist leader backed by most of the militant groups, rejected an invitation by the prime minister to attend. “We consider the conference a futile exercise, so we have rejected the invitation,” he told a news conference on Saturday. Kashmir’s main separatist alliance, All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, said it would decide on Monday whether to participate. Violence involving separatist guerrillas and soldiers continues in the region despite a peace process between India and Pakistan, who have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since they won freedom from Britain in 1947. Two suspected Muslim militants were killed in a clash with soldiers on Saturday while trying to cross over to Jammu and Kashmir from the Pakistani side, an army spokesman said. India accuses Pakistan of training, arming and sending militants in Jammu and Kashmir while Islamabad says it is curbing the incursions.