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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Musharraf's Kashmir dilemma
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
Pressure has increased on the Pakistani president

India has long portrayed the militants fighting in Kashmir as terrorists.

In the immediate aftermath of the 11 September attacks that strategy seemed to be failing.

To Delhi's intense frustration, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf managed to maintain a distinction between the Islamic militants fighting alongside the Taleban in Afghanistan and those taking on the Indian security forces in Kashmir.

But more recently, India has enjoyed greater success.

Support level unclear

Following high-profile attacks on the State Assembly building in Srinagar and on the Indian parliament in Delhi, the United States put some of the Pakistani-based militant groups on its official list of terrorist organisations.

Indian police arrest an alleged Pakistani militant after his arrest in Kashmir
Neutral observers say up to 50% of those fighting Indian forces in Kashmir are Pakistani militants

In January, General Musharraf was forced to follow suit.

He banned two of the most prominent of the Pakistani-based groups active in Kashmir, Lashkar e Toiba and Jaish e Mohammad.

The extent of Pakistan's support for the Kashmiri insurgency is difficult to quantify.

Pakistani military officers, speaking off the record, generally claim that Pakistani-based militants make up no more than 20% of those who are fighting the Indian security forces in Kashmir.

But neutral observers believe the figure is far higher - possibly more than 50%.

Afghanistan links

The numbers are relevant. If the insurgency does depend to a significant degree on the participation of Pakistani militants, then any genuine clampdown by General Musharraf would ease the pressure on the Indian forces in Kashmir.

Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden: Sympathetic, but not closely interested in the Kashmiri cause

If that were to happen, then it is unlikely that Delhi would make any serious effort to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute.

General Musharraf has been unable to disguise the fact that the links between militants in Afghanistan and in Kashmir are close.

Many of the Kashmiri militants have trained in camps in Afghanistan.

When the Americans bombed Afghanistan after the 1998 Africa embassy bombings, and again last year, Kashmiri militants were among the victims.

Political risks

While indigenous Kashmiri militants tend to be motivated by Kashmiri nationalism, the Pakistani-based militants are often driven by religious fervour.

Many are admirers of Osama Bin Laden.

Bin Laden, though, while sympathetic to the Kashmiri cause, has never taken a very close interest in it.

His public statements have focussed on the US troops in Saudi Arabia and the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

General Musharraf's campaign against Islamic extremism in Pakistan is popular.

But he knows that there are clear political risks in moving against the Kashmiri militants.

Many Pakistanis oppose the Islamic extremists when they are active within Pakistan, but support them when they fight in Kashmir.

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See also:

30 May 02 | South Asia
30 May 02 | South Asia
29 May 02 | South Asia
28 May 02 | UK Politics
29 May 02 | South Asia
28 May 02 | South Asia
27 May 02 | South Asia
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