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Pakistan in guarded response to India ceasefire

Pakistan in guarded response to India ceasefire

Pakistan gave a guarded response to India's extension by another month of a ceasefire in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, while guerrilla groups fighting Indian rule rejected the move as a propaganda ploy.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry said in a statement India's second extension of its unilateral ceasefire, announced earlier on Tuesday, could be meaningful if it ended "Indian repression" in Kashmir and led to a dialogue on resolving the dispute.

It urged India to resume deadlocked talks between the two nuclear rivals with the participation of Kashmiri leaders and to allow a peace trip to Pakistan by a delegation of Indian-ruled Kashmir's main separatist alliance.

"The Indian government's announcement extending the suspension of combat operations in (Indian) occupied Kashmir by another month would be meaningful if it signals an end to Indian repression and the commencement of a purposeful dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute," the statement said.

India extended its two-month-old suspension of hostilities against guerrillas in Kashmir for another month on Tuesday despite concern over a rash of guerrilla attacks on its forces.

But both Islamabad and the main Pakistan-based guerrilla alliance accused New Delhi of violating its own suspension of hostilities by continuing what they called "repression" in Kashmir.

"Indian forces have violated the declared suspension of combat operations and continued a campaign of terror against the Kashmiri freedom struggle," the Pakistani statement said.

It urged India to agree to Pakistan's proposal, made last December, for the start of tripartite talks involving India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders.

New Delhi blames Islamabad for inciting violence across its only Muslim-majority state and says its neighbour must rein in the guerrilla groups. Pakistan denies sponsoring rebels in Indian-held territory.

Pakistan responded to last month's extension by announcing a partial withdrawal of troops from the frontier dividing the nuclear-capable neighbours in the Himalayan state.

Indian officials say firing across the border with Pakistan has virtually ceased since it began its ceasefire at the end of November.

GUERRILLAS SEE "FRAUD"

The United Jihad Council (UJC) guerrilla alliance said India announced the ceasefire extension "merely to mislead the international community" while its forces were continuing their acts of "repression, custodial killings, crackdown and dishonouring people".

"The United Jihad Council regards the Indian ceasefire drama as a fraud and rejects it, and declares to continue its struggle."

The UJC said it could respond positively if India agreed to five conditions: holding tripartite talks, reducing troop strength in Kashmir to pre-1989 level, accepting the disputed status of Kashmir, releasing jailed activists and stopping "repression".

More than a dozen militant groups, most of which have rejected the ceasefire, are fighting New Delhi's rule in Jammu and Kashmir state. Indian authorities say more than 30,000 people have been killed in separatist violence in the state since 1990. Earlier, three major guerrilla groups - Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al-Badar Mujahideen - issued separate statements rejecting the Indian move.

"The Indian ceasefire is a propaganda ploy to gain the sympathy of the international community," a Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman, Salim Hashmi, told Reuters by telephone.

Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed said in a statement the ceasefire extension was "out-and-out fraud" with which India was trying to mislead the world.

"As we had rejected the ceasefire previously, we reject it in the same way now and declare that we will continue exposing their conspiracies by stepping up attacks on Indian army camps, headquarters and military establishments," he said.


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