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Tuesday, 13 July, 1999, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Analysis: Searching for a solution
By South Asia analyst Jannat Jalil

Both India and Pakistan are claiming victory over the agreement to end the fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Kashmir Conflict
India says its military might and international pressure forced the Pakistani-backed forces to withdraw from the Indian side of the Line of Control - a supposedly temporary cease-fire line created after previous wars.

Pakistan says the past eight weeks of fighting between the world's two newest nuclear powers have forced the international community to focus on an issue it would have once ignored.

International involvement

Pakistan has long been seeking international mediation over the Kashmir issue - but India has steadfastly refused to allow any third-party mediation and has said it wouldn't engage in dialogue with Pakistan until the forces in Kashmir had withdrawn.

But as the fighting dragged on, the weight of international opinion turned against Pakistan, with many countries saying they thought it had played some role in sparking off the crisis.

It was United States pressure in particular that led the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, after talks with President Clinton, effectively to back down and say that Pakistan would try to persuade the fighters to withdraw, despite its repeated denial of any links to them.

But now that the fighting has ended it will be India's turn to come under international pressure to accept Pakistan's offer of bilateral talks on Kashmir.

Nuclear fears

In previous wars, India's conventional military superiority has been the deciding factor, but with both countries now possessing nuclear weapons some military analysts argue that this is no longer the case.

The recent scare about a potential nuclear war means the international community will make a far greater effort to try to bring the two regional rivals to the negotiating table, despite India's refusal of outside intervention.

But with Indian general elections due to begin in a couple of months time, and the Indian public mood set against Pakistan, it seems there can be no realistic prospect of talks until a new government takes power.

Elections a complicating factor

Even then, a lot will depend on how the government is formed; the current BJP-led administration struggled to function for its one year in power with a fractious, unwieldy coalition of 18 parties before it was brought down by a no-confidence vote in April.

There is no doubt that the Kashmir crisis has helped enhance the short-term popularity of the BJP government.

No opposition party has voiced criticism of its military action to drive out the Pakistani-backed forces.

This is in stark contrast to Pakistan, where the opposition parties and the Kashmiri militant groups have expressed disappointment and anger over Mr Sharif's climb down.

But his position seems for now to be secure, as he has the backing of the military and a large majority in parliament.

With heavy losses having been sustained by both sides, and the status quo unchanged, it looks as if there is no solution yet in sight to Kashmir's troubles.

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See also:

13 Jul 99 | South Asia
Sharif accused of betrayal
12 Jul 99 | South Asia
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25 Jun 99 | South Asia
A contentious line
05 Jul 99 | South Asia
Pakistan and the Kashmir militants
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