Will Kashmir attack derail India-Pakistan peace talks? (+video)
Dual attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir killed at least eight and drew calls from Indian politicians to cancel the upcoming meeting between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers.
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The attack underscores the difficulty of bringing the two powers, long seen as enemies, together for peace talks.
The Associated Press reports that no one has claimed responsibility for today’s attacks.
Suspected separatist rebels stormed into a police station on the Indian side of Kashmir Thursday and shot and killed at least four police officers and two civilians before attacking a nearby army camp, killing another two army soldiers, police said….
[Top state police officer Ashok] Prasad said both attacks appeared to have been done by the same militant group and that security forces were fighting the attackers at the army camp.
Peace talks between the two nuclear-armed countries have been stalled for the past two years, but a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this weekend, where they are expected to discuss the heightened violence in Kashmir, is a much anticipated step toward launching talks.
Kashmir is a disputed Himalayan territory divided between the two nations by the so-called Line of Control (LoC). Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety, and it has witnessed militant violence since the 1990s. There has been a cease-fire in effect for a decade but intermittent violence has continued, including a rise in attacks this year.
"Given the history, timing, and location, the aim [of the attacks] is to derail the proposed meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart," said Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, according to the BBC. "There are forces that are inimical to peace and want to derail any peace process."
Indian politicians have called for the meeting between Mr. Sharif and Mr. Singh on Sunday to be cancelled, reports Reuters. India often accuses Islamabad of arming and training Kashmir militant groups, something Pakistan denies.
Raza Rumi of the Pakistani think tank The Jinnah Institute told The Christian Science Monitor in January that, "This has been the historical trend: that whenever India and Pakistan move toward peace, one small incident reverses all progress made by the dialogue process."
But Singh said in a statement that the attacks “will not deter us and will not succeed in derailing our efforts to find a resolution to all problems through a process of dialogue."
The Monitor reports that the number of militants in Kashmir for the past few years has been less than 500, according to both police and the Indian Army. However, the armed forces in the region have not declined dramatically. India has more than half a million soldiers in Kashmir and an estimated 100,000 local police officers “to deal with [the] popular rebellion that cropped up in 1990 against Indian rule.”
Polls in the Kashmir Valley, a Muslim-majority part of the region controlled by India, show that residents would prefer independence. New Delhi views the region, which borders Pakistan and contains the headwaters of the Indus River, as too strategic to let loose, and also worries about encouraging other separatist movements inside India's borders.
Efforts to bridge the political divide have been harmed by the scale of the past bloodshed – an estimated 70,000 Kashmiris have died since the armed uprising began in 1990 – and by India's continued use of "law and order" tactics that include repressive policing and torture.
Reuters reports that 128 people have been killed in Kashmir this year, not including today’s attacks. That’s compared with 117 people killed in 2012, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal, an organization that tracks violence in Kashmir.