- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2000

Pakistan offered a ceasefire deal to India this month that goes further than previous proposals designed to quell conflict over the disputed Kashmir region, but to no avail. Pakistan continues to incite violence in the Kashmir, and this has given no cause for trust, an Indian Embassy official said. For their part, the Pakistanis are running out of olive branches.

The deal offered Dec. 2 by the Pakistanis calls for its armed forces to use maximum restraint along the "Line of Control" in the Kashmir, the border India and Pakistan agreed to after their war in 1971. It also calls for the United Nations to be able to monitor the ceasefire according to its mandate. Since the offer, there has been a drastic reduction in firing, Minister Zamir Akram of the Embassy of Pakistan said. There are perhaps one or two incidents per week coming from either side, he said. But unlike previous offers, this deal proposes three-way negotiations the Kashmiris, India and Pakistan starting later this month. It also requests India to allow the Kashmiris to come to Pakistan to prepare for that tripartite process.

The Kashmiris, aided by Pakistan, have long fought for independence from India. The Indians and Pakistanis have fought two wars in Kashmir over the disputed region, but the Kashmiris say they have not been included in the talks regarding their future.

India isn't about to let them start now either. First of all, India considers all Kashmiris to be Indians, so it sees no need to provide a third seat for them at the table. India has been "consulting" with the people there anyway, an Indian Embassy official said.

The kind of contact the two have been having isn't exactly what the Kashmiris would desire though. According to the most recent State Department report on India's human rights practices, the Indian government has been abusing its power there: "Political killings by government forces (including deaths in custody and faked encounter killings) continued at a high level in the state of Jammu and Kashmir …" As of October 1999, 762 militants had been killed, the report said, citing reports from a Kashmiri minister.

The violence in the region is due to Pakistani encouragement of terrorism, an Indian Embassy official said, wondering how the Indians were supposed to suddenly trust what he sees as a deal offering nothing new. But with not so much as a counteroffer to the Pakistanis' goodwill effort, the Indians are revealing what they really think about a peace process. They aren't ready for one. Kashmiris should not have to die by the hundreds before India feels it is ready to take responsibility for the killing going on in their back yard, and plan to deal with it. Pakistan has taken the first step toward peace by calling for a ceasefire and negotiations, but it cannot continue alone. India should now make every effort possible to take Pakistan's outstretched hand.

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