| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Jan 14 India could reduce troops in
parts of Kashmir and allow greater access to visitors from the
Pakistani side, a top official said on Friday, as part of a
political solution to months of violent anti-India protests in
More than 100 people were killed in the protests, which
started in June and were the biggest since an armed revolt
against Indian rule erupted in 1989 in the majority Muslim
The unrest has quietened down following official promises
of a political solution, but could flare again if India does
not come up with a credible plan.
Renewed strife in the region would put the Indian
government under further pressure as it tries to fend
opposition attacks over corruption charges and public anger at
Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told Reuters the government was
looking at cutting troops by "25 percent in 12 months from
populated areas". The Himalayan region is at the heart of a
six decade territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.
"If we can manage with local police, that would be the
most ideal situation, and this is one of the
confidence-building measures, that people don't get harassed
by the over-presence of security forces," Pillai later told
"If peace comes, if violence is not there, people are
comfortable, we can gradually reduce our presence and make
sure that all forces are there only at the border for
Pillai said the government was also considering giving
Pakistani Kashmiris six-month, multiple entry permits to visit
relatives on the Indian side. They now get a 15-day permit.
But Kashmiri separatists dismissed Pillai's offer and
sought full withdrawal of Indian forces, numbering about half
a million, including soldiers across the disputed region.
"India is trying to hoodwink the international community
by announcing such things," Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a senior
separatist leader seen as the face of the June protests, said.
Last month, India's Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram
said the contours of a political solution to the protests were
expected within a few months. [ID:nSGE6B809P]
Kashmir is divided between India and Kashmir, who both
claim it in full. They have twice gone to war over Kashmir.
This is why any lasting peace in the region is unlikely
without the involvement of Pakistan, and whatever solution
India comes up with may only help douse the current round of
protests and not resolve the separatist revolt that has killed
India announced an eight-point confidence-building
initiative in September that helped calm the June protests.
It scaled back security in the region, offered talks, gave
compensation to the families of dead protesters and promised
to review the scope for limiting a much-hated law that gives
the military sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot.
(Additional reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq and Henry Foy;
Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Alex Richardson)