In Indian-administered Kashmir, first of four rounds of local elections in Jammu and Kashmir state – first since 2005 – began 8 Oct amid boycott by two mainstream parties and violence between militants and govt. Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party made some advances, winning around 100 wards in valley: Congress won 175; both benefited from National Conference and People’s Democratic Party boycott of the polls over govt’s “lack of clarity” on legal challenge to Article 35-A of Constitution, which provides special rights and privileges to Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residents. Tensions rose in valley after security forces 11 Oct reportedly killed high profile Hizbul Mujahideen militant Manan Wani in Hardwara, Kupwara district (north west); separatists organised complete shut-down next day. Police 21 Oct killed three suspected militants during overnight fighting in Laroo village, Kulgam district (south); unexploded shell from clashes detonated later same day, killing seven civilians and leading to mass protests throughout south Kashmir; separatists held second complete shutdown 22 Oct. Clashes between militants and police left two alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) militants, one civilian and one policeman dead in capital Srinagar 17 Oct. Army claimed to have killed three militants who were trying to cross Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir) in Baramulla district (north west) 18 Oct. Security forces 25 Oct claimed to have killed four militants in clash in Anantnag district (south) and two in Baramulla district (west). Tensions between Pakistan and India remained high following India’s late Sept cancellation of bilateral meeting on sidelines of UN General Assembly; Pakistani PM Khan 21 Oct condemned “cycle of killings of innocent Kashmiris” by Indian security forces; Indian govt said Pakistan should “address its own issues”.
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.