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Why Kashmir is so quiet - for now

Smarter tactics by Indian police and a desire among Kashmiri businesses to make money are keeping a fragile peace in Kashmir a year after violent police crackdowns killed more than 100 people.

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Kashmiri Muslims offers prayer on a street on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Srinagar, India, Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Mukhtar Khan/AP

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After security forces killed 117 civilians in Kashmir last summer, B.N. Ramesh took over as a top police officer here and saw a mess that his MBA degree could help him fix.

Last summer, young people led street protests against India’s presence here that prompted deadly police crackdowns, which in turn fueled more protests. This summer, in contrast, the valley has been mostly calm.

Why the calm? Young Kashmiris were not happy with the police. So Mr. Ramesh tried a new tactic: The Central Reserve Police Force in Kashmir (CRPF) began organizing sports teams for young men, hired discontented youth from 70 villages, gave away computers, and set up medical camps to offer free health care.

“People’s problems can be put into mathematical equations,” says Ramesh, who cites business management gurus like IBM’s Louis Gerstner, Jr. and Harvard University’s Michael Porter for informing his counterinsurgency theories. “The more we manage [people’s] frustration, the more … the war cries for so-called independence will calm down.”

Ramesh embodies a hope held by some Indian officials that Kashmiris can eventually be sold on Indian rule. The latest stretch of calm, the return of Indian tourists, and the wide participation in recent elections have bolstered this hope.

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