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'Confidence' measures falter in Kashmir

Tourism and cross-border buses have stalled. India has some 600,000 forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.

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Pakistan officially condemns terrorist attacks, such as the bombings in Mumbai and in Srinagar on July 11. But Pakistani leaders say they give diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiri separatist cause. Separatist leaders, including Mohammad Hafiz Said of Lashkar-i Tayyaba, reside in Pakistan.

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Unlike previous tactics, such as car bombings and suicide attacks, no militant group is claiming responsibility for the recent spate of grenade attacks against tourists and Hindu pilgrims, which have claimed 15 lives since May 25.

"The grenade is a low-cost affair to these groups. The grenade thrower is a daily wager, who needs little training, so this is what we call outsourcing of militancy. It is a very cheap model for them," says Farooq Ahmad, deputy inspector general of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Tourism is hard hit

Whoever is attacking tourists has done irreparable harm to the multimillion- dollar tourism industry, the one part of the Kashmir economy that seemed to have gotten a boost from the peace process. Hotel owners say they have 90-percent vacancies after a good start this spring.

"This is a news gimmick, a way to create publicity for militants," says Amit Wanchoo, a local doctor, a member of the Hindu minority, and president of the Srinagar Rotary Club. "I don't look to the Army soldiers or the militants for solutions. It is basically all of us, Kashmiri [Hindus], Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, who have to solve this."

As a doctor, Dr. Wanchoo has seen the toll of this war, both in civilian injuries and in the less tangible problem of clinical depression rise. At Srinagar's only mental hospital, the number of cases of depression have risen to about 65,000 registered cases as of December 2005 from 1,500 in 1989.

"People have this feeling that, 'I have fought 15 years, I have lost my men, I have lost everything,' and now they want some feeling of achievement. It is very important to have a time frame for this," he adds.

While India has put further peace talks on hold with Pakistan, pending further investigation of the Mumbai blasts, many mainstream politicians in Srinagar urge India to stay the course.

"Seventy-two percent of the people voted in by-elections, despite a separatist boycott, so this many people want peace and want development," says Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, president of the state's Congress Party and a minister in the present government. "But antisocial elements and jihadis want to derail the peace process."

Jammu and Kashmir at a Glance

• Total land area: 222,236 square kilometers

• 48% of Jammu and Kashmir under Indian control

• 35% under Pakistan control

• 17% under Chinese control

• Population: 13 million

• 10 million reside in Indian-administered Kashmir

• 3 million reside in Pakistani-administered Kashmir

• 80% of population of both sides of Jammu and Kashmir are Muslim; the rest are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians.

Source: www.kashmirnewz.com

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