The terrorist attack on the residence of the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Mufti Mohammed Syed, is the most dramatic evidence of the recent escalation of violence in the state. The increased violence in the state has been paralleled by a new dip in India’s relations with Pakistan. It is now clear that the widespread belief about Kashmir inching towards normalcy was misplaced. The attack on the chief minister’s residence was remarkable for its sheer audacity. The residence, in the centre of Srinagar, is a heavily guarded complex. The terrorists first attacked the Border Security Force post at the residence and then holed themselves in a nearby shopping complex. It took more than 24 hours and many casualties from within the ranks of the security forces to flush out the militants. The attack demonstrates once again that despite the claims of the security forces, no part of the state has been totally sanitized of terrorist actions.
Two Pakistan-based terrorist groups, the Al-Mansoorian and the Farzandan-e-Milat, have claimed responsibility for the attack. The former is believed to be a proxy for the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has inspired similar suicide attacks in the past. The attack at the chief minister’s residence follows a spate of terrorist actions. In recent weeks, there has been a rapid rise in violence throughout the state. After a generally calm summer, which witnessed an unprecedented rush of tourists, Kashmir seems to be back on the brink. The army chief, N.C. Vij, in a recent press conference in Jammu, stated that there was evidence that not only had infiltration of armed militants from Pakistan increased, but that training camps — across the border — have also resumed their programmes. Most of the infiltrators, however, are believed to be non-Kashmiri, many of whom have been trained to carry out suicide-missions against high-profile targets in the state. All this suggests that there will be increased violence throughout the state in the weeks to come, particularly before winter sets in and snow on the passes makes it difficult to infiltrate into the valley. Meanwhile, relations between New Delhi and Islamabad have reached a new low. The prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vaj- payee, delivered probably his most hard-hitting speech on Pakistan in recent months.
The posture of the Pakistani president, Mr Pervez Musharraf, has been anything but reconciliatory. There are no signs of an official dialogue resuming, and even the people-to-people contact seems to be waning. Pakistan’s strategy seems to be once again to raise violence in Jammu and Kashmir as a way of pressurizing India and drawing international attention to the problem. New Delhi, of course, seems determined not to talk to Islamabad until there is a complete end to cross-border violence. On present evidence, it does seem that there is little hope of reviving Mr Vajpayee’s peace initiative, launched from Srinagar on April 18, in the foreseeable future.