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India draws up new strategy on Kashmir violence as criticism mounts

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Reuters

(Read caption) A man gestures beside a burning armored police vehicle after it was set on fire by demonstrators during a clash with police in the Mendhar area of Kashmir's Poonch district September 15. Three people were killed in Kashmir on Wednesday when police clashed with Muslim protesters as the government and opposition parties met in New Delhi to try to end the worst violence in the region in years.

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• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

Indian military leaders say they have come up with a new security strategy to deal with the violence in Kashmir, where summer-long protests have killed nearly 100 people.

Agence France-Presse reports that leaders of India’s Army, paramilitary forces, and police did not give details of their new security plan for Kashmir, which was drawn up at a meeting Wednesday in New Delhi and will be implemented immediately. At a separate meeting Wednesday, political leaders decided to send a cross-party delegation to the territory in an effort to find a solution.

Critics say that after three months of violent protests, Kashmir demands real action from the central government, not simply a fact-finding committee. Separatist leaders in Kashmir called the meeting “futile” and said they would not talk to the fact-finding delegation, reports India’s Economic Times.

The majority-Muslim region is claimed by both India and Pakistan, and separatists there demand an independent state. This summer has seen some of the worst violence since a pro-independence insurgency broke out in 1989. The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that a new generation of Kashmiri youth have risen up to carry on the separatist movement, weary of heavy-handed police tactics.

The use of the military in Kashmir has been a point of contention for residents, who want the Armed Forces Special Powers Act repealed. That law gives the Army broad powers to search people and use weapons in the region. Kashmiri residents say the powers are often abused. The government is divided on whether to repeal the measure.

Fifteen people died in Kashmir protests Monday, which were fueled by anger over reported Quran burnings in the United States. Skirmishes Thursday in the capital city of Srinagar between rock-hurling protesters and police left six security officers wounded, reported the Associated Press.

The government’s fact-finding mission will be sent to the region as early as this weekend, reports the Hindustan Times. President of the ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, urged the government to respect the “legitimate aspirations” of Kashmiri youth and said the findings of the delegation would be used to shape the government’s response to the Kashmir crisis.

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An editorial in the Times of India blasts the government’s meeting, saying it “failed to take any concrete steps to address the alarming situation … As the Centre vacillates, the state is burning.”

The Wall Street Journal reports on its blog India RealTime that “it is hard not to come to the conclusion that New Delhi … doesn’t have a clue what to do in Kashmir.”

The chief grievance of the separatists has been clear for a long time: The militarization of their daily lives. Their initial demand, echoed by the increasingly isolated chief minister, Omar Abdullah, was a repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. […]

The government has had since June, when the protests started, to figure this out. Yet it is still debating the merits of repealing the law as a goodwill gesture and has only been able to decide that the next best step is to call all political parties together to reach a consensus.

The Journal reports that the government’s inaction has increasingly hardened the positions of Kashmir separatists, who now not only demand the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act but that New Delhi accept Kashmir as a disputed territory, release political prisoners, and reduce military presence in the region. That view is echoed in an op-ed in the Hindustan Times, in which the author Samar Halarnkar writes that a visit to Kashmir found more anger than ever before.

Each new death, every humiliation on the streets, each day of curfew draws in more people – and entraps the Indian government in a vicious cycle of narrowing options, making the job easier for a bunch of new radicals. […] Disaffection is now so deep and wide that whatever the Cabinet announces can only be a starting point. Resolution and reconciliation cannot come from a meeting. It must be a process, which is already faltering.

Every delay drags India towards a precipice. If we fall over the edge, expect the current unarmed unrest to turn into an armed insurgency. If that happens, a bloody suppression will follow.


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