- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

SRINAGAR, India Ahmed Latif, 50, a boatman who used to take tourists on pleasure rides across the glasslike Dal Lake surrounded by high mountains in the Kashmir Valley, has not had a single customer in the last 12 years.

An armed insurgency in the state, which is disputed between India and Pakistan, put a stop to that. The only rides he now gives are to journalists who, he said, "don't tip as much as others."

His despondency gave way to anger when asked if he believed this weekend's summit between India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf would help change the situation in the valley.

"What do they know about our problems? They are not visiting us and nor are they asking our opinion. Nothing will change," he said.

The Kashmir issue is expected to dominate the discussions between the two leaders during the first visit of the Pakistan president to India Saturday through Monday.

Officially, about 30,000 people are said to have died in India's only Muslim majority state since violence erupted in 1989, but unofficially the figure is put closer to 80,000. Almost every family in the state has lost at least one member to the insurgency, according to news reports from the valley.

Indian security forces killed more than 200 suspected guerrillas in June alone. And just two weeks before the summit a herdsman and his wife had their throats slit by Indian soldiers who accused them of being spies for Pakistan.

Islamabad is accused of fueling the armed insurgency by training and sending in Muslim extremists who are dedicated to fighting the Islamic jihad or "holy war" against the "infidels."

These militant groups have been increasing in the last decade. Abduct Gani Lone, a senior leader of the Hurriyat Conference, the umbrella group of the Kashmiri resistance movement which officially shuns any violence, believes the trouble will not stop unless the people of Kashmir are included in any discussion about the future of their state.

"There must be a dialogue between all concerned parties, and the Hurriyat must be a part of that dialogue," he said.

Critics of the Hurriyat, which includes 23 groups, say it's influence in Kashmir has been undermined by its lack of unity. Members cannot agree whether the state should be pushing for independence or to become a part of Pakistan.

"The Hurriyat does not speak for me or my family," said Mahmood Altaf, a carpet weaver in Srinagar. "We do not want to go to Pakistan. Some of us have been there, and it's not what they want us to believe. But we do not want to remain a part of India either."

Mr. Musharraf has requested a meeting with Hurriyat leaders at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi before the actual summit in Agra, but India has shown its displeasure at the idea.

"A summit is between two leaders; other meetings can wait," said a senior Indian official.

Although Mr. Lone believes the alienation of the people of Kashmir can only increase if they are not included in the summit at some level, he is positive about the meeting between the two leaders.

"Ever since India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1947, this is the closest the two countries have ever come to finding a solution to the Kashmir problem. I believe both leaders genuinely want to find a solution. However, it will go nowhere if they do not both come to the table with an open mind," he said.

India and Pakistan, both armed with nuclear weapons, fought two wars over Kashmir and a border skirmish in 1999. However, low-level firing across the unofficial border known as the Line of Control over the past 30 years, has virtually stopped in the weeks leading up to the summit.

Indian military sources say 125,000 Indian troops are stationed in Kashmir, but unofficial figures put that figure closer to 300,000.

"Infiltration across the border by Pakistani militants has actually increased in the last few months, and security forces have been very active," said Girish Saxena, the governor of Kashmir.

"But violence is futile. … What we need from the upcoming meeting between the two leaders is a dialogue within realistic parameters."

Some Indian analysts agree that a dramatic breakthrough is not necessary at the summit.

"Real peace can be created not by dramatic gestures or meetings between top leaders, but by the power of incrementalism," said Kashmir scholar Amitabh Mattoo of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi in an editorial in the Indian Express newspaper.

"Only through detailed agreements in peripheral areas that can be sustained over the long term can cooperation be learned and institutionalized. Peace … can only be achieved through pieces."

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