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India moves to isolate hawks in Kashmir

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | October 22, 2003 22:40 IST

The Indian government's offer on Wednesday to depute Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani to talk to Kashmiri separatists will put the limelight on the moderates in the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella body of separatists, and force Pakistan and terrorists on to the backfoot.

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But a breakdown of the latest peace initiative could have disastrous consequences, say officials involved in India's Kashmir initiatives.

The government decision to raise the level of negotiator from a retired bureaucrat [N N Vohra] to the deputy prime minister is a tactical move aimed at tilting the balance of power in the favour of moderate elements in the Valley.

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Such a correction had become necessary from the Indian point of view following the recent split in the Hurriyat, forced by hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and the spurt in militant violence.

The timing too was of consequence. The international perception of the situation in the Valley has shifted in India's favour in the past couple of months and Delhi wanted to capitalise on it.

The recent statements of a group of UK MPs holding Pakistan squarely responsible for the violence in the Valley and the US decision to brand fugitive don and prime accused in the Mumbai serial blasts, Dawood Ibrahim, as 'international terrorist', clearly indicated how more and more countries were beginning to sympathise with India's position on Kashmir/terrorism.

The latest peace move is being seen as a last ditch effort by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government to resolve the Kashmir tangle and find lasting peace with Pakistan.

A failure would have 'disastrous consequences', warn some people close to the decision.

For now, officials are exhibiting optimism saying that the Hurriyat will make some concessions because the separatists have been left with not much choice. "They need to either talk the language of peace and negotiations or go the other way. We don't see much scope for the second option," an official said.

The government believes that the latest peace effort would send out credible signals once again to the international community about India's intentions in Kashmir and build pressure on militants.

Latest intelligence inputs indicate that militant violence would continue to rise in the Valley and insiders insist that there will be no let up in the Indian security forces' action against militants.

In fact, Delhi hopes to build pressure on terrorists groups by fighting them at the border as they infiltrate. With costly, sophisticated technology and better deployment, the troops along the border have been tracking down terrorists infiltrating into the Indian side and killing them in large numbers.

However, what is the most worrying aspect of the peace initiative is what happens if it fails. As the country heads for general election, and the BJP coalition stands on a sticky wicket, the mood of anti-India forces could only get more aggressive.


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