|SLUG: 47435 Kashmir Ceasefire||DATE:||NOTE NUMBER:|
TITLE=KASHMIR / CEASEFIRE
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.
// MATOO ACTUALITY //
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.
// END ACTUALITY //
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.
// BANO ACTUALITY //
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.
// END ACTUALITY //
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.
// REST OPTIONAL //
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.
// AHMED ALI ACTUALITY //
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.
// END ACTUALITY //
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