Truce offer will be considered: Hizb
23 April 2005
Srinagar: Held Kashmir’s main rebel group said on Saturday it would “seriously consider” any ceasefire offer by New Delhi to end bloodshed in the insurgency-racked region. The statement by a top Hizbul Mujahedin leader to a local news agency followed a pledge this week by India and Pakistan to reach a “final settlement” on Kashmir. “If they (the Indians) are serious about it (a ceasefire), Hizbul would seriously consider it,” Ghazi Misbahudin, chief operational commander of Hizbul Mujahedin, told the Kashmir News Service. So far, India has made no ceasefire proposal. But some Indian commentators have suggested it should make such a gesture in the wake of recent talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New Delhi where they said the peace drive between the two nations was “irreversible”. Hizbul Mujahedin, based in Azad Kashmir, wants the divided territory reunited and joined with Pakistan, and is the key Islamic rebel group battling New Delhi’s rule since a revolt erupted in the Indian zone in 1989. India announced a unilateral ceasefire in 2000 but abandoned it after six months in the absence of similar overtures by rebel groups, including Hizb. “Any ceasefire announcement should be followed in spirit on the ground,” said Misbahudin, without elaborating. The Hizb commander said the Kashmir dispute should be resolved according to Kashmiris’ wishes and on the basis of decades- old UN Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite in the region. India has rejected calls for a referendum and Pakistan lately has indicated it will no longer hold out for one. A truce has been in effect since November 2003 along the heavily militarised Line of Control dividing Indian and Pakistani armies in Kashmir, which is claimed in full by both countries. Last November, New Delhi also announced a reduction in troops in held Kashmir. The moves were part of the peace process launched in 2003 by then Indian premier Atal Behari Vajpayee and followed up in early 2004 with the start of formal talks. Hizb announced a ceasefire a few months before the 2000 truce declared by New Delhi, but the group ended it after two weeks when India rejected Hizbul’s demand for tripartite talks involving India, Pakistan and militant leaders to decide the future of the Muslim-majority region. India has traditionally insisted the dispute must be resolved bilaterally by New Delhi and Islamabad. The feelers by Hizb also come after the second successful run on Thursday of a trans-Kashmir bus service launched April 7 between Indian Kashmir’s summer capital, Srinagar, and Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistani zone. The service is seen as the peace process’s biggest achievement and has been greeted with elation by Kashmiris on both sides. But it has been opposed by some rebel groups and separatists who fear the bus may lead India, Pakistan and Kashmiris to accept the Line of Control as a permanent border. While Hizb has said militants should not oppose the bus, four other guerilla groups have vowed to turn the vehicles “into coffins”.