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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08NEWDELHI2109 2008-08-01 12:39:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

OPTIMISM REPLACE BY TENSION IN KASHMIR, BUT

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM PTER KDEM PK IN 
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DE RUEHNE #2109/01 2141239
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 011239Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2870
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 002109 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/10/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PTER KDEM PK IN
SUBJECT: OPTIMISM REPLACE BY TENSION IN KASHMIR, BUT
SITUATION NOT "OUT OF CONTROL" ON LINE OF CONTROL

REF: A. A) NEW DELHI 1799 BOARD WITHDRAWS LAND CLAIM
PROTESTS SUBSIDE

B. B) NEW DELHI 1674 DELICATELY POISED AHEAD OF
PROMISING TOURIST SEASON

C. C) NEW DELHI 1644 HIGH TURNOUT EXPECTED IN
OCTOBER ELECTIONS

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Ted Osius for Reasons 1.4 (
B and D)

Ref A Board withdraws land claim, protests subside
Ref B Delicately poised ahead of promising tourist season
and state elections
Ref C High turnout expected in October elections



1. Summary: (SBU)"Tension" is the new byword in Kashmir,
replacing the optimism that seemed to be cautiously growing
prior to the June outbreak of rioting related to the transfer
of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. An ongoing
"bandh" (work stoppage) has been in place in Hindu-dominated
Jammu for the last month. Law enforcement officials,
politicians, separatist leaders, NGOs, and businessmen all
reported concern during July 24-25 conversations about the
likelihood of increased attacks and heightened rhetoric in
the wake of the land transfer disputes and in the lead up to
state elections in October. Interlocutors also cited
increased meddling from Pakistan. Moderate separatists
appear to have completely given up their own track, and have
moved under the umbrella of extremist Hurriyat leader Ali
Shah Geelani. Hotels and other sources reported
cancellations and drastically lower tourist arrivals as a
result of the protests and rioting that began in late June.



2. (SBU) On the more positive side, law enforcement and
intelligence officials did not express heightened concern
about the number of infiltrators over the Line of Control and
the international border. Our Ministry of Defense contacts
in Delhi also claim that the level of cross-border activity
is not at unusual levels for this time of year, even as the
press trumpets ongoing Line of Control violations are
escalating. Nevertheless, all of our interlocutors in Kashmir
are convinced that Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence
(ISI) and at least some elements of the Pakistani military
continue to support the extremists and militants. They see
no hope that the Pakistani civilian government will be able
or willing to change that status quo. End Summary.

From Optimism to Tension


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Pol FSN and Pol/CToff found the situation in Kashmir
has shifted drastically from the optimism encountered in a
May 14 - 17 visit (Refs B and C). In May, poloffs observed a
strong economic situation with growing tourism, and broader
support for the upcoming state elections that pointed to a
record voter turnout. The current situation, in contrast, is
downbeat, with every single interlocutor pointing to
indicators of further unrest and a hardening of positions
between the government, the established political parties,
and the separatists.

Valley Unrest Sparked by Land Transfer for indu Pilgrimage


--------------------------





4. (U)The ongoing unrest sparked by the the transfer of land
to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (Ref A) appears to be the
straw that broke the previous sense of calm in Jammu and
Kashmir. Hindu pilgrims have been traveling annually for
decades to the Amarnath cave shrine, to worship an ice
phallus that forms every spring as the snows melt. The
number of pilgrims to the Muslim-dominated area has increased
drastically over the past ten years, and now totals several
tens of thousands. After hundreds of pilgrims died in a
storm during the 1996 pilgrimage, state government officials
erected temporary lodging facilities in an area designated as
forest land near the pilgrimage route. Approximately three
years ago, the then Governor of the state extended the
pilgrimage period from one month to two, in a move that
caused some tension in the Muslim community, according to a
law enforcement official. In late May of this year, the
state government formalized the assignment of the
accommodation site to the Shrine Board, which most involved
saw as merely formalizing an agreement that had existed for
years.



5. (C) Our contacts in Srinigar related, however, that at

NEW DELHI 00002109 002 OF 004


least one political party, the Jammu and Kashmir People's
Democratic Party (PDP), saw the transfer as an opportunity to
make political points, even though they were part of the
state ruling coalition that had approved the land transfer.
Protesters, supported also by separatist groups such as the
All Parties Hurriyat Conference, soon came out in force. The
protests shut down Muslim-majority Srinagar for at least a
week in late June, and spread to other communities, as well.
Two protesters were killed by security personnel on June 25,
and at least seventy were injured.



6. (SBU) The state coalition government fell when the PDP
withdrew on June 28. The government technically moved to a
caretaker status under "home control" and, under the federal
government's instruction, the disputed land was moved out of
the Shrine Board's jurisdiction and back to being directly
under the control of the state government's control.

Followed by Protests against the Decision's Reversal in
Hindu-dominated Jammu


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Things appeared calm for a few days, until strikes
emerged in Hindu-designated Jammu in protest of the land
being "taken away," and demanding that the land be restored
the Shrine Board. The move which mollified the Muslim
population has ignited the Hindu population in the state's
other major city, which has long resented what it sees as the
domination of Muslim-dominated Srinagar. The "bandh" and
curfew have now lasted nearly a month. As the president of
the Pannun Kashmir, a migrant Kashmiri Hindu organization,
said to us in a July 31 phone conversation, "If the valley
Muslims cannot tolerate even temporary land transfer for
temporary structures for the Hindu pilgrims, how can they
show toleration on the big issues?"

Moderates Move toward Extremists -- "Moderation Has Failed
Us"


--------------------------



8.(SBU) The shift in the mood of the "moderate" separatists
to complete dejection was the most striking element of our
July 24-25 visit. Person after person from all backgrounds
told us, "The moderates have surrendered to the hardliners."
Interlocutors who would generally be considered moderates
claimed that "nothing has happened" since they agreed to
talks with the Indian government, and lamented that they have
been discredited with their supporters. Both business and
government contacts complained that Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, the
head of Srinagar's largest mosque and a prominent moderate
separatist, appeared to have completely abrogated his
position to extremist Huriyat leader Geelani. The few
moderates who are left, we were told, are being squeezed
between the government and the extremists.



9. (U) The unrest over what was actually a minor issue -- the
land transfer -- escalated so quickly, we were told, because
of frustration that there has been no progress on the peace
process. There is growing anger about the feeling "we aren't
going anywhere."

Attacks, Infiltration and Line of Control Incidents


--------------------------





10. (SBU) There were at least three bomb and grenade attacks
in Srinagar from July 14 - 25, after a two-year lull. Law
enforcement officials were concerned about the attacks, but
not surprised, and they had expected an increase in unrest in
the runup to federal Independence Day celebrations on August
15 and the state elections that will be held in October.
National Conference MP Omar Abdullah noted that, so far, the
attacks have not been directed toward political leaders,
which indicates that the population still supports the
political process. (There was speculation that the attacks
were targeted at "guest workers' from Bihar and other parts
of India.)

11.(SBU) As the weather has warmed up, there have been more
infiltrations across the Line of Control and the
international border, but at least some law enforcement
officials said they had not seen more activity by the
infiltrators. Many contacts cautioned against making
comparisons with last year, as the number of Line of Control
(LoC) incidents in 2007 was abnormally low. In separate
conversations in Delhi, terrorism experts and Ministry of
Defense officials have observed that they do not see an

NEW DELHI 00002109 003 OF 004


unusual increase in activity across the Line of Control.
Press accounts, which have sensationally covered the death of
one Indian soldier in an encounter with the Pakistani Army
(and the subsequent reported counterfire), have nevertheless
focused on several LoC exchanges, and give the impression
that numbers are up.

Role of Pakistan always at the Forefront


--------------------------





12. (C) "The ISI is the mother of all evils," said one law
enforcement official. There has been no recent increase (but
also no decrease) in the amount of money the ISI is funneling
to the militants. However, there is the feeling that most
attacks are being carried out by "guest militants," and that
Lakshar- e- Taeba and Hizbul Mujahiddin can no longer induce
Kashmiris to fight with them.



13. (SBU) Several contacts regretted that the Indian
government missed the opportunity when Musharraf was in power
to come to an agreement with Pakistan on Kashmir. For any
long term settlement to work, both sides have to be able to
report back to their constituencies that they "haven't lost
anything." The 1994 unanimous resolution in the Indian
Parliament that India should annex the part of Kashmir now
occupied by Pakistan is another hurdle that would be nearly
impossible to get around. Several contacts also noted that
Indian Prime Minister Singh is now weakened, in the wake of
the recent government crisis, and he will be unable to take a
bold step on Kashmir.

14.(C) There is widespread belief on all fronts, from
government officials to those who are fighting for an
independent Kashmir, that a Pakistani civilian government
will not be able to deliver. The Inspector General of Police
noted that, under the weakened civilian government, those in
the ISI and the Pakistani Army who actively support the
militants do not even have to hide their support. He related
that the Indians have an intercept of a phone conversation
between the head of ISI and Hurriyat leader Geelani in which
he urges the group to cause as many problems as possible in
the lead up to the elections. Law enforcement officials also
claim that the Pakistanis have told the moderates they must
consolidate under one leader. Previously, Pakistani
operatives funded a number of separatist or pro-Pakistani
groups, but funds are now being channeled through a single
source, thus concentrating the various groups and moving them
all more toward a more extremist stance.

Upcoming Elections: Now Predicting a Weak Turnout


--------------------------





15. (U) In contrast to the outlook in May, prospects for full
participation in the upcoming state elections look bleak.
The most optimistic contacts predicted a 50 percent turnout,
which will be about equivalent to the turnout in 2002.
Political rallies and organization related to the upcoming
elections had been going well, but the July 13 government
crackdown on leaders' statements and gatherings had stopped
that progress in its tracks.

Differing Views on the U.S. and the Nuclear Deal


--------------------------





16. (SBU) Even the moderate separatists in Kashmir view the
prospect of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement with
trepidation. They fear that the United States will be less
likely to push India on human rights issues in Kashmir if the
relationship is closer. Those with stronger views related
there is the perception among Kashmiri Muslims that, as the
relationship between India and the U.S. improves, the
situation for Muslims declines, because the U.S. is seen as
being "anti-Islam." On the other hand, contacts who are more
accepting of Kashmir's place within India speculated that the
more influence the United States has on the Indian
government, the better for Kashmir.



17. (SBU) Comment: It is hard to identify a positive event
that could shift the pre-election mood in Kashmir back to
optimism. The clear indications that the moderates are
shifting to support more extreme positions is particularly
worrying. Although most observers had expected increased
attacks leading up to the elections, the extra layer of the
protests over the land transfer (and re-transfer) have
hardened positions on all sides, including those of the
security forces both within Jammu and Kashmir and along the

NEW DELHI 00002109 004 OF 004


border, who not surprisingly appear to be more skittish and
perhaps trigger happy as the tension increases. End Comment.



18. (C) This message is based on conversations with a number
of observers, including:

Yasin Malik, Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.
Parvez Imroze, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons
and President, J and K Coalition of Civil Society
Khurram Parvez, Program Coordinator, J and K Coalition of
Civil Society
Bilal Lone, Executive Member, All Party Hurriyat Conference
(moderate separatist)
Dr. SP Vaid, Inspecgor General of Polic, Crime
Ashfaq Trumboo, Businessman
Omar Abdullah, President, National Conference
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Former Chief Minister and patron,
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
Dilbagh Singh, Inspector General of Police, CID
Kuldeep Khoda, Director General of Police

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