|SLUG: 2-270654 India/Kashmir (L)||DATE:||NOTE NUMBER:|
INTRO: India has extended the government's unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir by another month. The current ceasefire began late last month and was due to end next week. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the Indian Prime Minister has also said his government will explore the possibility of holding a dialogue with Pakistan.
TEXT: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced in Parliament that the ceasefire in Kashmir is being extended due to "encouraging developments."
/ / / INSERT VAJPAYEE ACTUALITY / / /
After careful consideration of all aspects, the government has therefore taken the decision to extend the period of no initiation of combat
operations by another month. After Republic Day (January 26th), 2001, the government will review the position again.
/ / / END ACTUALITY / / /
The ceasefire currently in effect covered the period of the Muslim observance of Ramadan. It is the first truce declared by India in its
11-year struggle with Kashmiri separatists.
Prime Minister Vajpayee said India's peace initiative had been widely welcomed. He said in recent weeks the level of violence in Kashmir had
declined, and there were fewer exchanges of fire along India's volatile border with Pakistan.
Mr. Vajpayee also held out the prospect of a dialogue with Pakistan saying India would initiate what he called "exploratory steps" in this direction. Talks between India and Pakistan broke down last year after a tense
confrontation between the two countries along their Himalayan border.
However Kashmir's Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has sounded a note of caution, saying the ceasefire will only be effective if violence ends in the Kashmir valley.
/ / / INSERT ABDULLAH ACTUALITY / / /
The government of Pakistan has to be made aware of the fact that this thing has to stop - the killing of innocent people has to stop. If it does not stop then what is a ceasefire?
/ / / END ACTUALITY / / /
There have been several incidents of violence in Kashmir since the Ramadan ceasefire took effect. Indian authorities have blamed the killings of
civilians and security forces on Islamic militant groups who had rejected the ceasefire and vowed to continue their campaign for Kashmir's secession from India.
However Kashmir's most prominent separatist political alliance - the All Parties Huriyat Conference - has welcomed the ceasefire, saying they support talks with India over a future political settlement for the disputed
region. New Delhi views this as a positive sign, and says it is willing to open a dialogue with Kashmiri separatists.
Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority region. More than 30-thousand people have died in the state since a Muslim separatist revolt began in 1989. The disputed region is divided between India and Pakistan. (signed)