Violence at historic low in Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India - The number of violent incidents in Indian Kashmir fell below 100 in the first half of the year, the lowest level since the start of an insurgency more than 20 years ago, according to the police.

Official records showed that the number of incidents in the first half of 2011 fell by 50 per cent to 97 compared with last year's figure of 196.

Seventy-nine people were killed in violence between January 1 and June 30 - 42 militants, 12 Indian security personnel and 25 civilians, a police officer said.

At the peak of the unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1996, 13 people were dying on average per day. In 2001, about 10 a day were killed on average.

A total of 375 insurgency-related deaths were recorded in 2010, the same as 2009, when the figures were the lowest for any single year since the start of the insurgency against Indian rule in the Himalayan region in 1989.

The figures for 2010 do not include the estimated 117 fatalities during a summer of public protests against Indian rule, with most deaths caused by security forces firing live ammunition on demonstrators.

The violence in Indian Kashmir has been stoked by Pakistan-based groups that send militants over the de facto border that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India.

Indian military leaders say that so-called "infiltration" bids are also at a 20-year low, with just one militant killed on the border this year.

The improvement in security has rekindled hopes of a good summer season for the vital tourism industry.

Over 500,000 Indian and 16,000 foreign tourists visited the scenic region during the first half of the current year, according to the tourism department.