Deadly encounters between security forces and separatist militants continued in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, leaving at least ten alleged militants and nine soldiers dead. Police and security forces 4 Feb killed two suspected members of Hizbul Mujahideen near Sopore in north; claimed operation thwarted major terrorist attack. Gunfight between alleged Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) militants and security forces in Kulgam district in south 11-12 Feb left four alleged militants, two soldiers and two civilians dead; incident provoked major protests and clashes between demonstrators and security forces same day, one protester reported killed and at least 30 injured. Four Indian soldiers and four alleged militants killed in separate security raids 14 Feb. Alleged militants 23 Feb ambushed army patrol in Shopian, killing three soldiers and injuring five; one civilian killed by stray bullet. Indian army chief Bipin Rawat 17 Feb claimed those who obstruct or do not support anti-militancy operations will be considered “overground workers of terrorists”; remarks triggered violent protests throughout Jammu and Kashmir same day. Pakistani army accused India of violating ceasefire along LoC after three Pakistani soldiers were killed in 13 Feb exchange of fire in Bhimber district in south of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Their recent dialogue process provides the best chance yet for bilateral peace and regional stability, but Pakistan and India must still overcome serious mistrust among hardliners in their security elites.
Even if India and Pakistan appear willing to allow more interaction across the Line of Control (LOC) that separates the parts of Kashmir they administer, any Kashmir-based dialogue will fail if they do not put its inhabitants first.
When the third round of the normalisation talks concludes in July 2006, India and Pakistan will be no closer than when they began the process in February 2004 to resolving differences, including over Kashmir.
The agreement between Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and India's new prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to continue talks on all contentious issues including Kashmir has inspired optimism about reduced tensions in South Asia.
For half a century Kashmir has been the major issue of contention between India and Pakistan.
More than five decades after independence, Pakistan is no closer to a resolution with India of the dispute over Kashmir.