Kashmir Rebels 'to Ignore Truce'
26 November 2003
Srinagar: India and Pakistan began a ceasefire yesterday along their frontier in the disputed Kashmir region, as the main rebel group fighting Indian rule warned that its guerillas would not be bound by the 'cosmetic' truce. The new move to calm ties between the long-time foes, launched as Muslims on both sides celebrated their most important festival, Eid Al Fitr, appeared to be at least initially successful with both sides saying the ceasefire was holding. But analysts cautioned against reading too much into the agreement, noting that fighting usually slows during winter, while one of the main Islamic groups fighting in Kashmir said it would continue attacks in the Indian part of the territory. In Muzaffarabad, the main city of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a spokesman for the rebel Hizbul Mujahideen said his forces would continue fighting Indian rule on the other side of the de-facto border, regardless of the ceasefire between the rival armies. 'The ceasefire is by the two armies and not by the Mujahideen,' said the rebel spokesman, Salim Hashmi. 'The situation inside the (Indian-) occupied territory is tense and there the struggle will continue with full force,' he said. The world has welcomed news of the formal ceasefire between the two nuclear-armed nations whose forces have shelled and shot at each other for years across the de-facto border, known as the Line of Control. And officials on both sides of the dispute confirmed it was holding. 'We haven't fired a single bullet, nor has there been any report that India has fired,' said a Pakistani officer commanding the Chakothi sector, south of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir. In Srinagar, thousands of residents swarmed mosques to offer prayers and many said it was the most peaceful Eid they had seen in years. Analysts say the ceasefire will help improve the atmosphere ahead of an expected visit to Islamabad by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for a regional summit in early January. India's Defence Minister George Fernandes expressed hope the ceasefire would help the countries resolve their differences. 'There is reason to believe that this could take us to a point where we can find some solutions which have plagued us for some time,' he told state-run Doordarshan television. But Fernandes said security forces would continue cracking down on militants in Indian Kashmir. 'As far as terrorist activities of the militants are concerned, there isn't a ceasefire,' he said.