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. Attack May Spoil Kashmir Summit

The latest strike has also advanced the general perception that the Hurriyat conference has no influence over militant organizations. The fact that the separatist leaders have neither the influence nor the moral authority to persuade militant groups to accept a settlement has forced the federal government and its intelligence agencies to revamp their strategies.
by Kushal Jeena
New Delhi (UPI) May 24, 2006
With an umbrella of seperatist groups refusing to take part, the second roundtable conference to resolve the Kashmir dispute is unlikely to yield any concrete results, Indian political analysts said Tuesday.

"The second roundtable meeting called by Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh may not arrive at any fruitful decision in the absence of Hurriyat leaders who claim to have influence over the militants and larger sections of Kashmir society," said Syed Iftikhar Geelani, an expert in Kashmir affairs.

Geelani said that by attacking a public rally in Srinagar on Sunday, terrorists have succeeded in delivering a message for all those who will be present at the meeting this week.

Leaders of the All Party Hurriyat separatist bloc who had agreed to attend the meeting, suddenly took a "U turn" Sunday and rejected the government's offer under pressure from militant groups, particularly Lashkar-e-Toiba, said Geelani.

Amid preparations for the government-sponsored second roundtable conference on Kashmir, separatist militants attacked a ruling Congress party rally and killed at least six people; another 35 were wounded, including the regional inspector general of police.

"Two militants clad in police uniform, entered the Sher-e-Kashmir park around noon and one of them started firing indiscriminately at the podium," according to police. Aggressive outfits Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al Mansoor have claimed the responsibility for the attack.

The chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi, survived because he arrived at the rally minutes after the incident.

"When the two militants, part of a suicide squad, entered the park, a police constable tried to question them and he was shot dead immediately," recounted one eyewitness. "One of the militants then started firing towards the podium, leaving a number of people in pools of blood. But he could not fire at the ministers and Congress leaders as they had taken cover."

The conference delegates held an emergency meeting immediately after the incident to discuss whether or not to attend the roundtable in view of new threats.

Following hour-long deliberations, Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Farooq Umer announced the bloc would not participate in the conference.

"We did not want to be part of a crowd of hypocrite politicians and counter insurgents," Farooq said. "The roundtable had no agenda and no result can be expected out of it. It's only our commitment to dialogue that has made us offer to meet the (prime minister)."

A Hurriyat delegation had met Indian Prime Minister Singh last month and had expressed willingness to join the second roundtable conference to be held in Srinagar May 24.

"In the interest of continuing dialogue with India and Pakistan, we were willing to meet the prime minister separately if he desires," the separatist outfit said.

At the request of Hurriyat leaders, Singh had decided to extend the conference by one or more days after separatist leaders said they would like to attend in the absence of political parties and other groups. The meeting was then rescheduled, with Singh holding talks with political parties, social and religious organizations on the first day and with Hurriyat alone on the second day. After the Sunday, however, analysts say the roundtable has lost its sheen.

The latest strike has also advanced the general perception that the Hurriyat conference has no influence over militant organizations. The fact that the separatist leaders have neither the influence nor the moral authority to persuade militant groups to accept a settlement has forced the federal government and its intelligence agencies to revamp their strategies.

"It is a serious matter that a militant managed to enter a high security zone at the podium and shot at the inspector general of police of Kashmir," said Geelani.

Tightening security arrangements for Wednesday's roundtable conference, the state government has banned all public rallies for next two days. The government said the decision was taken to ensure smooth conduct at the meeting.

Meanwhile, another separatist group, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front headed by Yasin Malik, also announced its boycott of the meeting.

Source: United Press International

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Washington (UPI) May 24, 2006
The Cold War is over. The Soviet empire has collapsed. The West has won. The countries of the former Eastern Bloc have nearly all turned to democracy and many have even joined NATO and the European Union. Nuclear weapons (at least some of them) have been dismantled. The world is a far safer place now. Or is it?

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