With Kashmir becoming safer and more peaceful, more and more young people are applying to become military officers.
The turnaround in views could not be more dramatic. Kashmiri youth who once thought of the Indian military as a hated enemy are now flocking to join it.
On August 5th, hundreds of graduate and post-graduate candidates from across the valley lined up in the rain at Kendriya Vidyalaya, an army-run school in Sonwar, Srinagar to take the written test required for becoming an officer in the Territorial Army (TA).
"I'm well prepared and will hopefully pass the test," Naseer Ahmad Bhat, 27, told Khabar South Asia. "My parents, relatives and friends have wished me best of luck. To be an army officer is my passion."
Shamas-u-din Gojri, 26, an arts graduate from Uri Baramulla, came well-prepared. "I have taken special coaching classes to crack the test," he said.
The newfound enthusiasm for army recruitment is due to multiple factors, analysts say. One is the growing unemployment rate in Kashmir, which has spurred young people to look for opportunities where they can.
"Educated but jobless youth in the Valley are desperate for jobs," Noor Mohammad Baba, Head of the Political Science department at Kashmir University, told Khabar. "For many aspiring candidates, joining the army is probably the last option left."
Abdul Gani Malik, Minister for Higher Education Labour and Employment, said it is a "good sign" that young people are showing increased interest. "It will help a great deal in dealing with the problem of growing unemployment in the Valley," he told Khabar.
The waning of extremist violence in Kashmir is also playing a role. People are beginning to view the area as peaceful again, as evidenced by the Valley's rebounding tourism numbers.
"As a result of a remarkable change in the ground situation marked with declining violence, youth feel secure in joining the army for jobs. Due to turbulence in preceding years and potential fears concerning the belt force (the Central Reserve Police Force, paramilitary and police), youth refrained from availing themselves of such job opportunities," Baba explained.
Moreover, perceptions of the Indian Army appear to be changing, with more Kashmiris now crediting it for helping to preserve the peace.
"The army is doing a commendable job," Mohammad Ashraf Malik, 30, a post-graduate from Bohipora Kupwara, told Khabar. "The nation sleeps sound only when soldiers protect its borders against the enemy."
"My selection as TA officer would be a dream come true. I want to serve the nation," he added, expressing a feeling of patriotism.