SLUG: 47435 Kashmir Ceasefire DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: Residents of India's strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir State are waiting to see if a cease-fire declared last week by India's prime minister will result in less violence in their daily lives. V-O-A's Jim Teeple reports there is cautious optimism in the

region about the cease-fire the first ever declared by India in its

eleven-year struggle with militant separatists.

TEXT: There are an estimated 250 thousand Indian security force

personnel in Jammu and Kashmir. Shortly after the new moon

is sighted - signaling the beginning of Muslim Ramadan observances - they are

under orders to begin obeying the cease-fire declared last week by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The Ramadan cease-fire caught the Indian public by surprise. Although some right-wing Hindu groups have protested, most Indians have welcomed the truce declaration.

Under the cease-fire Indian security forces will fight back if attacked,

and will continue patrols along the "line of control." However, Indian authorities say they will suspend all offensive operations against the militant separatists they

have been fighting for 11 years. Some diplomats say the move is a dramatic

new development in the long history of conflict over Kashmir. Amitabh

Matoo - an Indian analyst on Kashmir - says it is now up to the militants

to decide whether the cease-fire will work or not.


I think everyone is skeptical, but, once a cease-fire actually starts off,

you cannot hide it. It is not like making any other verbal gesture. A

cease-fire operates on the ground. Admittedly, the security forces are

going to have to show tremendous restraint even at the cost of their

own lives. But, if we can pull it through for this month then the

Kashmiris will know who is the real enemy - who is standing between

them and real peace. If the militant groups are really interested in

peace in Kashmir and going to express solidarity with what is really a

call of the people, then they will have to reciprocate.


Many of the separatist militant groups fighting in Kashmir have rejected

the cease-fire. In recent days, there has even been an upsurge in

attacks both against security force personnel and Hindu and Sikh

civilians by some militants. However, the largest militant group

fighting in Kashmir Hizbul Mujaheddin - says it will consider honoring

the truce, if India agrees to meet certain demands, including releasing

prisoners and withdrawing troops from Kashmir. Earlier this year, Hizbul

Mujaheddin declared a cease-fire but withdrew the offer after India would not agree to demands Pakistan be included in talks on the future of Kashmir.

Kashmir's separatist political leaders have welcomed the cease-fire.

Leaders of the All Parties Huriyat Conference a grouping of more than

20 separatist political parties who have been holding discreet talks

with Indian officials for most of this year - have softened their

insistence Pakistan be included in direct talks on

Kashmir. Hamida Bano is a professor of English at Kashmir University

and a human rights activist. She says, like many Kashmiris, she is

skeptical about India's intentions. However, like many, she also is weary of

the conflict and wants to see the cease-fire succeed.


Let us begin by trusting them for the first time and say, "Okay, the offer is

genuine." We would also like the militants to respond positively. Let

us try and, if India backtracks on her own promise, they will be exposed

before the whole world, once again, as they have been exposed before so

there is an "if" clause. If this is an initial step to set a lasting

peace process in motion, we welcome it.


Prime Minister Vajpayee's surprise cease-fire declaration has been

welcomed in many world capitals. Diplomatic analysts say it

not only puts pressure on Kashmir's separatists to respond in kind, but

also on Pakistan to ease tensions in Kashmir by exerting more control

over the separatist guerrillas that cross into Indian Kashmir from the

Pakistan side of the "line of control."

Pakistan initially called Mr. Vajpayee's cease-fire offer a

"tactical-ploy." But, in recent days, Pakistani officials have said they

are willing to honor a 1972 agreement between the two countries which

calls for both sides not to cross over the "line of control" onto each

other's territory. Analysts say this is a sign that Islamabad is closely

studying the cease-fire and could respond with a diplomatic initiative

of its own.


Mukhtar Ahmed Ali is a senior research fellow at Pakistan's Quaidi-Azam University in Islamabad. Attending a conference on Kashmir in New Delhi just before the cease-fire took effect, he said many in Pakistan believe the cease-fire could ease tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.


The immediate reaction was, well you know this is directed towards an

international audience, but there is a section of the intelligentsia that

believes the cease-fire could be a very solid foundation a step which

if followed by serious efforts at dialogue may provide a good base.


Indian officials say they are optimistic the Ramadan cease-fire will

succeed and that, if it does, they will consider extending it beyond

next month. Analysts say for that to happen all sides will have to

exhibit a desire to compromise something that has yet to be evident in a

decade of fighting that has left more than 30 thousand people dead in

Kashmir. (Signed)