WHAT Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday indicates that New Delhi hopes to achieve through a soft approach what it has failed to do by repressive methods. He has promised that once the new central government settles down, it will take a fresh look at the issue of Kashmir. He has also said he is ready to hold talks with Kashmiri political parties which are not in the mainstream as well as with anti-India separatists. Another aspect of the soft approach is a possible reduction of the security forces currently deployed in Occupied Kashmir. Last week Home Minister P. Chidambaram promised to phase out a large number of troops from towns across the Valley. While there is a need to demilitarise Held Kashmir to reduce the incidence of gross human rights violations, the move will in no way remove the basic cause of the Kashmiris' grievances. As the results of two earlier rounds of talks with the APHC would indicate, they tend to break down on the issue of self-determination. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says he entertains the vision of a cooperative Subcontinent. Before him several Indian Prime Ministers, including Hindu nationalist Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also talked about peace and amity in South Asia but the goal continues to elude the people of the Subcontinent because of the blinkers that make the Indian political leadership ignore the core issue. The sooner Dr Singh sees the ground realities, the better for everyone. There is a tendency in New Delhi to blame Pakistan for militancy in Indian Held Kashmir. As the ongoing protests in the occupied Valley indicate, the reasons for agitation emanate from the Indian occupation. The perception of being forced to live under an unacceptable dispensation is revolting for human beings. It matters little if the methods to maintain the hold are soft or hash. That President Zardari did not mention Kashmir at the Yekaterinburg meeting gives no credit to him. This would strengthen the view that the Prime Minister, rather than the President, should hold important meetings with world leaders. The people of Pakistan have close religious, historical and ethnic ties with the Kashmiris. There is also a fairly large population of Kashmiri origin in Pakistan. It is natural therefore that any atrocities on the other side of the LoC should cause widespread resentment in Pakistan. No amount of hectoring can stop Pakistan from raising the issue. No government in Pakistan can afford to ignore the question, which is bound to crop up whenever talks to normalise relations between the two countries are initiated.