56c9c4f35ea58210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4Mumbai rampage 'killed talks on Kashmir'46c9c4f35ea58210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Mumbai rampage 'killed talks on Kashmir'Last year's assaults by Islamic terrorists put the Kashmir dispute back in the global spotlight, with investigations revealing links between militants involved in both.<p>SRINAGAR, INDIA // When gunmen struck Mumbai in November 2008, India was quick to link the attack to the issue of global terrorism and not to the simmering dispute in Kashmir, which many believe was what motivated the attackers.</p>
<p>Delhi has long tried to keep the conflict in Kashmir low key - insisting it is an internal matter - so as not to draw attention to an issue in which India is often seen as the guilty party.
In its efforts to distance the Mumbai attacks from Kashmir, India did find some takers, such as the US Senator John Kerry, now the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, who, during a visit to South Asia days after 26/11 insisted that it would be wrong to link the two. He did, however, say on his trip that the conflict in Kashmir needed to be resolved.</p>
<p>But Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, was more candid in his assessment of the situation, saying terror attacks in South Asia would stop with the resolution of Kashmir dispute.
International media reports also referred to Kashmir in covering the Mumbai attacks, noting that the terrorists' sympathy for their coreligionists in the Muslim-majority region Kashmir was probably a motivation for them.</p>
<p>Investigations carried out by Indian and US intelligence over the past year have identified some of those involved in the Mumbai attacks as having links to militants in Kashmir.
Lashkar-i-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Jihadi group accused in the Mumbai attacks, has carried out a series of deadly offensives against the Indian security forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir has been in the grip of insurgency for the past two decades and LiT is pledging to "liberate" the Himalayan region from the Indian "yoke".</p>
<p>In fact, militants involved in the Mumbai attacks referred to abuses in Kashmir when talking to the media and in e-mail exchanges among themselves. In high-profile terrorist strikes in the past, such as the 2001 attack on the Parliament in New Delhi, also blamed on LiT, Kashmir was cited the militants as the main reason for the attacks.
For most people actually living in Kashmir, peace is the goal and terrorist attacks in India are merely the efforts of malcontents to derail the peace process.</p>
<p>Some, such as the senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, have gone as far as to accuse Indian and Israeli intelligence of masterminding the attacks in Mumbai in order to turn public opinion against Muslims, particularly those living in Kashmir and the Palestinian territories, and thus marginalise their grievances.
Such accusations have been labelled as ridiculous by both India and Israel.</p>
<p>Most commentators who follow the issue of terrorism in India say the grievances of Muslims worldwide are used by jihadists as an excuse to attack India.
"Militants use the justification of the [Muslim] community having been wronged in India as much as it having been wronged globally," said Mayank Chhaya, a Chicago-based Indian journalist.
In any case, the six-decade old dispute in Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 and where a rebellion by Muslim separatists and a tough Indian military response has claimed thousands of lives since 1989, goes on.</p>
<p>Mumbai has done much to damage what were becoming thriving peace efforts; indeed dialogue between India and Pakistan on the issue was suspended and has yet to resume.
If Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Kashmir's chief Muslim cleric and leader of the moderate faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference alliance, is to be believed, India and Pakistan were close to an agreement on Kashmir before Mumbai.
"It is true that Mumbai blew the chances of an early settlement," Mr Farooq, 35, who is known to be deeply involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations on Kashmir, said.</p>
<p>Some analysts say the attackers' real goal was to disrupt efforts to improve relations between India and Pakistan and deepen the divide.
A G Noorani, an Indian lawyer and commentator, agreed with Mr Farooq's assessment and said India and Pakistan would have reached an agreement on the cusp of Kashmir resolution by this stage had Mumbai not happened. "If last year's Mumbai attacks wouldn't have taken place, the prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, would have been in Islamabad discussing the Kashmir issue," he said at a seminar in Srinagar recently.</p>
<p>Even after seeking to delink the Mumbai attacks from Kashmir, India says the prospects for co-operation with Pakistan has become hostage to the security situation.
India's foreign minister, S M Krishna, while addressing a South Asian Economic Integration conference in New Delhi last week, said: "Issues such as cross-border terrorism and incidents of anti-India activities from territories of our neighbouring countries have impacted on the process of regional economic engagement, connectivity and people-to-people contacts."</p>
<p>Islamabad, on the other hand, says that unless Kashmir is resolved the process of reconciliation may have to take a back seat, even though the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has attempted to improve relations with India, saying they should not be dependent on the resolution of Kashmir.
Mr Zardari, however, has raised the ire of conservatives in Pakistan with his comments, and particularly so after he referred to Islamic militants operating in Indian-administered Kashmir as "terrorists".</p>
<p>Reports emanating from Islamabad suggest that Kashmir is continuing to divide the establishment of Pakistan more than any other issue, with hawks advocating a tougher stance vis-a-vis India, something analysts worry could play into the hands of militants.
But it is Kashmir which is seen as a fount of the rising so-called Islamist terror in India, rather than the widely made accusations of discrimination against Muslims or the occasional outbursts of anti-Muslim violence, such as that in Gujarat in 2002. The Mumbai attacks were launched when both India and Pakistan were publicly pledging more confidence-building and peace-building measures on Kashmir.</p>
<p>In recent weeks, the US, Britain and the European Union have renewed diplomatic pressure on India to reopen talks with Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders.
Amid reports of the Kashmir "channel" being reactivated as part of what India's interior minister, P Chidambaram, termed "quiet diplomacy", Mr Farooq of the Kashmiri Hurriyat Conference said there has been a "flurry of activity" between New Delhi, Washington and Islamabad to kickstart a new dialogue.</p>
<p>"India has to come out of the Mumbai attacks and start a dialogue with Pakistan," Mr Farooq said.
"Mumbai was only a kick in the teeth, as it happened at a time when a serious effort was under way to address the issue. The people of Kashmir have gone through hell and can't wait further."
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