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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Kashmiri separatists propose peace
Indian soldier in the border area
On the lookout for militants and Pakistani soldiers
The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), the main separatist alliance in Indian-administered Kashmir, has proposed sending a delegation to Pakistan-ruled Kashmir to persuade the militant commanders there to suspend their armed campaign.


Obviously if a forward movement is intended, we will have to give peace a chance

AG Bhat,
chairman APHC
The APHC says it is keen to help India and Pakistan final a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

The Chairman of APHC, Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat, said, "We will negotiate peace with them and a peaceful resolution to the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir."

This is the first time that the APHC has made such an offer although in the past, its proposal to hold trilateral talks with Indian and Pakistani representatives to resolve the Kashmir dispute was rejected by Delhi.

"We would want a ceasefire to happen," he said, "Obviously, if a forward movement is intended, we will have to give peace a chance."

India sceptical

India and Pakistan were thought to be on the brink of war only recently, and rising tension was defused only through intense international diplomacy.

Correspondents say the Indian response to this suggestion is likely to be cool.

The junior Minister for External Affairs, Omar Abdullah, during a visit to Kashmir on Tuesday, said Hurriyat leaders had often misled the people.

Muslim militants in Pakistan
Pakistan denies arming and training militants
"Hurriyat leaders have exploited the sentiments of people in the name of freedom and amassed huge wealth by all means to satiate their petty interests."

Mr Bhat has, however, asked the Indian government to allow a delegation of APHC leaders to visit Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

There they intend to persuade the commanders of the militant groups to declare a ceasefire in their campaign against Indian troops.

Mr Bhat said the Indian government would have to commit itself beforehand to sending its troops back to the barracks, once the militants had declared a ceasefire.

Failed initiatives

Two years ago, the APHC had nominated a five-member delegation to visit Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan- administered Kashmir, to urge the militant commanders to declare a ceasefire.

Syed Salahuddin, Hizbul Mujahideen commander
Hizbul Mujahideen's ceasefire offer collapsed

The Indian government refused to allow the visit on the grounds that the hard-line APHC leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani had been included in the delegation.

The APHC has now offered to undertake the journey to Muzaffarabad at a time when Mr Gilani is in jail.

The Muzaffarabad-based alliance of militant groups, the United Jihad Council, has recently ruled out a second ceasefire, saying such a step would be suicidal.

A leading militant group, the Hizbul Mujahideen, declared a unilateral ceasefire in July 2000, to facilitate what it described as a peaceful settlement of the dispute.

However, it withdrew the ceasefire only two weeks later, following India's refusal to include Pakistan in any trilateral talks over the Kashmir dispute proposed by the militants.

This time round, Mr Bhat has hinted that he has been in touch with leaders of the militant groups about his latest initiative and says he is sure of a positive response from them.

Both India and Pakistan claim the disputed Kashmir region and have fought two of their three wars over it since gaining independence in 1947.

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See also:

12 Jun 02 | South Asia
11 Jun 02 | South Asia
10 Jun 02 | South Asia
10 Jun 02 | South Asia
08 Jun 02 | South Asia
12 Feb 02 | South Asia
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