- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Kashmiri separatist groups yesterday rejected an offer by India of a cease-fire in Kashmir during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
However Pakistan, which supports the groups, said it would cautiously watch India's behavior in the coming days to see whether the offer was more than a "tactical move" aimed at dividing the Kashmiri separatists.
"Past experience shows India uses these offers as a tactical move to divide the Kashmir movement," Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, Maleeha Lodhi, said at a luncheon with editors and reporters of The Washington Times yesterday.
"It's up to the Kashmiri groups to decide what to do about it," she said.
The embassy's deputy chief, Zamir Akram, added: "A cease-fire is not what is necessary. What is necessary is a dialogue that involves all three parties," India, the Kashmiris and Pakistan.
India has long refused to include Pakistan in talks on Kashmir, which was divided in fighting between the two countries in 1947 and has remained a flash point ever since.
U.S., British and Russian diplomats yesterday hailed the Indian offer to stop offensive operations during Ramadan, which begins around Dec. 1, depending on the first sighting of the new moon.
"We welcome it," said a State Department official. "We think it is fully consistent with the principles President Clinton laid out when in the region… .
"We hope this [cease-fire] represents an opening toward the process of dialogue needed to bring about a lasting settlement for Kashmir."
However, the major militant groups tying down more than half a million Indian troops in Kashmir dismissed the offer as a trick and said they would not respect it unless India agreed to talks with Pakistan.
"This limited cease-fire … has no meaning or utility for the people until it is set up to initiate a meaningful dialogue for the ultimate resolution of the Kashmir conflict," said Syed Salahuddin, supreme commander of Huzbul Mujahideen.
"As long as this remains unresolved, there will remain general unrest and a danger of a nuclear outbreak in the region."
The Al-Badar Mujahideen also rejected the cease-fire and said its holy war "will continue until Indian forces withdraw from occupied Kashmir."
Another militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba also rejected the cease-fire.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Ahmed Khan said in Islamabad that peace was not possible until India ceased "repression" of Kashmiri separatists waging a guerrilla war against India since 1989.
"Otherwise, short-term cease-fire offers such as the one made yesterday could only be tactical and part of India's efforts to impose a military solution," Mr. Khan told a news conference.
The State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, urged the militant groups to reconsider the Indian offer.
"We have not seen this before from the Indians," he said. "It's a good thing. Let's hope it can be expanded into something more. But it takes two to tango."
Miss Lodhi said that India's goal was to "isolate" Pakistan, but that the United States had long-standing national security interests in maintaining good relations with Pakistan, even as it improves its economic and political relations with India.
She said the military government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf was struggling to improve Pakistan's economy and needed help from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the leading industrial nations to restructure its $38 billion debt.
Only when the economy improves can Pakistan cope with rising anti-Americanism and Islamic fundamentalism, which she said are inevitable consequences when people have no hope of improving their lot in life.

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