DATE=12/15/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=YEARENDER: KASHMIR NUMBER=5-44992 BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: For centuries, writers and poets have called the Kashmir Valley, which straddles the India / Pakistan border, paradise on earth. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the valley is dotted with lakes, fruit orchards, pine forests and alpine meadows. However, in recent years, Kashmir has become paradise lost -- wracked by a vicious insurgency between separatist militants and the Indian Army. Both India and Pakistan claim all of now-divided Kashmir. V-O- A's Jim Teeple reports 1999 was an especially-painful year for those who call the Kashmir Valley home. They saw their beautiful valley once again become the focus of conflict between India and Pakistan. TEXT: // ACTUALITY OF SOUND PROTESTORS CHANTING // Text: Hundreds of young men taunt police in front of the centuries-old mosque in the heart of Srinigar, the ancient capital of Kashmir. Nearly every Friday, following prayers at the Jama Masjid Mosque, young Kashmiri men play a cat-and-mouse game with Indian police and paramilitary units. Ten years after it began, the separatist insurgency in Kashmir shows no sign of losing support among many of Kashmir's young and disaffected. Things were supposed to be different this year in Kashmir. Following a bus trip to the Pakistani city, Lahore, by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in February, it appeared that Pakistan and India would work to settle the Kashmir dispute -- which has led to two of the three wars the countries have fought over the past half-century. In a sign of optimism following Mr. Vajpayee's trip to Pakistan, more than 100 thousand Indian tourists visited Kashmir. But that was before mid-May when an Indian Army patrol stumbled into a group of heavily-armed guerrilla infiltrators inside Indian territory, along the steep mountain ridges which overlook the Kashmir valley. India's Army Chief of Staff V-P Malik left no doubt as to who he thought was behind the infiltration. // MALIK ACTUALITY // The intruders are regular Pakistani troops in disguise. We are very clear in our subject, and in our minds it is a very well-orchestrated and very well-planned operation by the Pakistani army. // END ACTUALITY // Pakistan strongly denied the accusations, saying it only offered diplomatic and moral support to separatist militants fighting to free Kashmir from Indian rule. As tens of thousands of Indian Army troops and hundreds of Indian Air Force pilots began operations to push the infiltrators out of Indian territory, there were fears the conflict could escalate into the fourth Indo-Pakistani war. A year earlier, both countries tested nuclear weapons and global attention was soon riveted on the region as fears mounted of a greater conflict // OPT // But the conflict did no escalate beyond the mountain battlefields of Kashmir. Air Commodore Subash Bhajwan -- who directed offensive operations for the Indian Air Force during the conflict -- said India's only goal was to regain its lost territory // OPTIONAL BHAJWAN ACTUALITY // Our aim, between the army and the air force, is to get these infiltrators out of our country -- out of our territory. And therefore there is, at the present time, absolutely no clearance to go across the border. But I will also state that if there is any interference from across the border we reserve the right to take appropriate action. // END OPTIONAL ACTUALITY // In early June, talks in New Delhi between India and Pakistan on defusing the Kashmir crisis ended without agreement. But by July -- as Indian Army troops closed in on the high peaks occupied by bands of guerrilla fighters -- diplomatic efforts intensified. Following talks in Washington with President Clinton, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to work to withdraw the infiltrators from Indian territory. By the end of July, Lieutenant General N-C Vij, the director general of military operations for the Indian Army, said the withdrawal was complete. // VIJ ACTUALITY // These intruders have now been evicted, and there is no Pakistani presence on Indian territory. // END ACTUALITY // However, the end of fighting in the Kargil region of Kashmir did not mean there was peace in the Kashmir Valley. In July, as fighting subsided in Kargil, India was hit with a wave of attacks by separatist militants, all across the Kashmir valley. Gurbachan Jagat, the director general of the police in India's Jammu and Kashmir State, said the upsurge in fighting in the Kashmir Valley was linked to the battles in the northern mountains. // JAGAT ACTUALITY // When the security forces were busy in Kargil and a large number of units were shifted out of the valley to deal with the Kargil situation, at that time Pakistan sent a large of number of infiltrators. Seventy to 75 percent of these are foreign mercenaries with a good component of ex-servicemen. By foreign mercenaries I mean most of them are Pakistani's and a few Afghans. These are people who managed to infiltrate when the security forces were in Kargil and there was a slight break in the security grid in the valley. // END ACTUALITY // At the beginning of 1999, Indian security officials like Gurbachan Jagat believed they had largely contained the ten-year separatist insurgency. But recent attacks by separatist militants on heavily- guarded installations such as army headquarters in Srinigar indicate violence in Kashmir is increasing -- at least temporarily. // REST OPTIONAL // When relations between India and Pakistan began to thaw earlier this year, many in Kashmir were more optimistic about their future than they had been in years. But now, after weeks of renewed conflict between India and Pakistan and an upsurge in daily fighting between Indian security forces and separatist militants, there are few optimists left in Kashmir. (Signed) neb/jlt/WD 15-Dec-1999 06:08 AM EDT (15-Dec-1999 1108 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .