March 4, 2012: Terrorism related deaths in Indian Kashmir hit a record (since the early 1990s) low last year. In 2011, there were 189 terrorism related incidents in Kashmir, which left 34 civilians, 30 soldiers and policemen and 119 terrorists dead. That's 183 dead, which was less than half the fatalities for each of the previous two years, and over 80 percent fewer than 2006 (when 1,116 died). Most importantly, civilian deaths declined over 90 percent from 2006 to 2011. Last year, seven of the 23 districts in Kashmir were declared free of Islamic terrorists, while four districts suffered a disproportionate share of terrorism incidents.
Only twenty terrorists a year have a surrendered in each of the past two years, indicating that the few hundred that remain are hard core. Some 4,000 Islamic terrorists have surrendered over the last 22 years, and the government received amnesty applications from 800 of the 3200 Kashmiri Moslem men who had illegally crossed into Pakistan over the last two decades intending to become Islamic terrorists, but never did, or at least were never able to re-cross the border as terrorists.
India won by sealing the border and flooding the province with soldiers and police. The largely Moslem population of Kashmir eventually got tired of the Islamic terrorism and stopped supporting the Islamic radical groups. With few local recruits, far fewer trained terrorists crossing from Pakistan and growing casualties among terrorists inside Kashmir, the violence declined sharply over the last five years.
India also became more adept at dealing with Moslem unrest. India has nearly 200 million Moslems of its own and finally mobilized sufficient peacekeeping resources to calm things down. This had always been difficult, because the Islamic terrorists had always sought to kill or drive all non-Moslems out of Kashmir. Since Hindus have been in Kashmir thousands of years longer than Moslems, this strategy had little chance of success, but did create lots of religious animosity.
The declines in terrorism led to the return of tourists, long a mainstay of the local economy. Last year there were over a million tourists, most of them from India. This compares to a previous (before the terrorism got going in the 1990s) peak of 700,000 tourists a year. While big spending foreign tourists have not yet returned in large numbers, the Indian economy has boomed in the last two decades, creating millions of middle class families who can afford to take vacations and travel. Kashmir has many Hindu shrines, but developed a tourism industry over a century ago to cater to British expatriates and, after World War II, Westerners in general. The return of the tourists in large numbers, more than a sharp reduction in terrorist incidents, is the true indicator of peace in Kashmir.