Kashmir Incursions Steady But Violence Dips - India
7 November 2006
Srinagar: Militants continue to sneak across the frontline from Pakistani territory into Indian Kashmir in large numbers but violence has dropped in the disputed region this year, an Indian official said on Tuesday. The infiltration comes despite a ceasefire between the two armies and India's new fence along the militarised Line of Control dividing the Himalayan territory. India accuses Pakistan of supporting Muslim militants fighting against its rule in Kashmir and of failing to deliver on a promise to end what it calls 'cross- border terrorism' - a pledge which is central to the peace process between the nuclear-armed rivals. 'They are maintaining the level of infiltration and the level is a yardstick of Pakistan's commitment to end cross-border terrorism in the region,' said K. Srinivasan, regional intelligence chief for India's Border Security Force. The comments came as officials of India and Pakistan were due to resume talks early next week to push forward a slow-moving peace process launched in 2004. Srinivasan said at least 590 Muslim militants had crossed into Indian Kashmir during the last 10 months as compared to about 580 during the corresponding period last year. Taking advantage of a ceasefire agreed in 2003, the Indian army has built a three metre (yard) high barbed wire security fence along most of the 742-km (460-mile) Line of Control. But militants seem to have breached the barrier. 'At some places they have been able to cut it, dodge mines and have sneaked in,' Srinivasan said. '(But) it has helped a lot in reducing infiltration.' VIOLENCE FALLS Indian officials, however, say Pakistan-sponsored violence has decreased in Kashmir this year. Some attribute it to effective policing and security operations but others say Pakistan-based militants have simply shifted their focus to staging attacks elsewhere across India. India says it suspects a Pakistani hand behind the July attacks on commuter trains in Mumbai that killed at least 186 people, a charge Islamabad denies. In Kashmir, killings related to rebel violence have declined sharply this year, despite daily gun battles and occasional bomb attacks, officials say. 'There has been a decline of over 19 percent in overall acts of violence and a 29 percent drop in killings between November 2005 and October 2006,' a state government spokesman said. At least 590 people were killed in militancy-related violence in the past 12 months compared to 817 in the previous year, according to a statement. The dead included 408 civilians and 249 security force personnel, it said, but did not include the number of militants. Officials say at least 45,000 people have been killed since a separatist insurgency broke out in Kashmir in 1989, although separatist groups say the toll is at least twice that number. Peace talks between India and Pakistan were originally set for July but were put off by New Delhi after the Mumbai blasts. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir and the dispute has dogged relations since independence from Britain in 1947.