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This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

Battle that could make a sideshow out of Afghanistan 29/10/01

ROBERT DENSELOW:
This rough, rocky track, twisting alongside a spectacular gorge, leads to one of the most volatile front lines in the world. This is Kashmir - the setting for a bitter, bloody dispute that has continued for over 50 years and flared up again this month. While attention is focused on Afghanistan, less than a day's drive away, the struggle between Pakistan and India for control of Kashmir threatens the US-led coalition against terrorism. At Chakothi, the Pakistani army is dug-in with a maze of trenches stretching along the "line of control" between the two sides that have clashed so often in the past. This exquisite, divided land could lead to nuclear war. The issue of Kashmir has led to two major confrontations between India and Pakistan. They are now both nuclear powers. Despite the cease-fire, the past month has not been good. There have been artillery barrages across the dividing line. Over in Indian Kashmir, Islamic militants have launched guerrilla and car bomb attacks. For the Pakistanis, these are freedom fighters, but in India they're regarded as terrorists, in league with Bin Laden and linked with Afghanistan.

BRIGADIER MOHAN MOHAMMED YAQUB:
54 years since partition, these pledges remain to be honoured, and Kashmir continues to bleed and burn.

DENSELOW:
You need Pakistani army clearance to come here. Visitors are treated to a slick presentation on the Pakistani view of the conflict - on how unfair it was that the local Hindu ruler ceded this Muslim state to India back in 1947, and how the fighting led to the split between what the Pakistanis call Azad Kashmir - Free Kashmir - and the larger area controlled by India. There's a lecture on the array of Islamic militant groups that have fought the Indian army in Kashmir for the past 12 years, in which 35,000 people have died. India has long portrayed Pakistan as a terrorist, state promoting Kashmiri militants, and in league with the Taliban. It's harder for India to be heard on this now Pakistan is helping the US. Standing on the front line as we peered across at the Indian troops over the valley, the brigadier explained why he thought India had launched an artillery barrage this month.

YAQUB:
India was trying to take advantage of the situation and trying to create a situation where the tension increases on the line of control - the situation between Pakistan and India comes to the stage where the world worries about it and starts talking to the Indian leadership. They want to gain that importance.

DENSELOW:
Now there is a new relationship between Pakistan and the US, much to the fury of the Indians, it's argued, will the US now help Pakistan over Kashmir? General Rashid Qureishi is the President's official spokesman.

GENERAL BRIGADIER RASHID QUREISHI:
Not only the US, we hope the world will help us in convincing India that Kashmir needs to be resolved. That's the only issue between India and Pakistan.

DENSELOW:
Have the US given any commitments to you on this?

QUREISHI:
I am not aware of commitments, but when Secretary of State Colin Powell was here, who said in a statement, "Yes, this is the issue between India and Pakistan." He made it known that the US would be ready to assist if anybody asked for assistance.

DENSELOW:
The Indians see it differently. They'd argue that the mountains of Kashmir hide training camps, and point out the US has branded at least one militant group as terrorists with links to Bin Laden. The Pakistanis say they give political but not military support to the militias, who only operate and train inside Indian-controlled Kashmir, though they do come here to rest. All this has created a diplomatic minefield for the US and its allies. India and Pakistan are members of the coalition against terrorism, and yet the US and the UK, and of course India, have accused some of the Islamic militias operating in Kashmir and supported by Pakistan of being terrorist. To make matters worse, Pakistan today accused India of suspected state terrorism.

QUREISHI:
They stage-managed an incident outside the Srinagar Assembly, where a vehicle was blown up and 40 people got killed and injured.

DENSELOW:
And as Pakistan vows to track down those responsible for yesterday's horrific and unprecedented attack at a Christian church, in the Pakistani town of Bahawalpur, in which 17 Christians and a Muslim policeman were killed, the president's spokesman made another remarkable allegation. He said he considered India as a suspect.

QUREISHI:
These trained terrorists, we are not sure whether they work from extreme religious parties or are motivated by people from across the border.

DENSELOW:
The Indians?

QUREISHI:
Yes. We are not sure as to who motivated these people.

DENSELOW:
So you are blaming that attack on the Indians?

QUREISHI:
I just give you facts. In Pakistan there has never been friction between the Muslims and the Christians. Never has such an action taken place. It has taken place in India, but not in Pakistan.

DENSELOW:
There was no firing over the line of control this weekend. Instead, a flurry of furious allegations hurled from one nuclear power at another. For the outside world, Kashmir has become a forgotten conflict, much as the war in nearby Afghanistan was ignored until September 11th. But if there is to be peace and security in this volatile region, it's vital that the tragedy of Kashmir is finally resolved.


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