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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 15:42 GMT
Truce holds in disputed Kashmir
Shelling in Kashmir
Civilians have suffered most from regular artillery exchanges
A ceasefire between Indian and Pakistani troops in Kashmir is holding, officials on both sides say.

The guns fell silent at midnight on Tuesday after India accepted a Pakistani truce offer on Sunday.

Tit-for-tat shelling - a daily feature along the frontier since 1989 - has stopped, but militants resisting Indian rule have vowed to fight on.

Troops from both countries have marked the truce by exchanging sweets on the first day of the Muslim Eid festival.

Civilians' joy

Villagers along the Line of Control (LoC) celebrated their first night without artillery fire in years.

They stayed up late and left lights burning in their houses, while children played in exposed outdoor areas.

It is a lovely Eid gift from India and Pakistan
Hotel owner Asan Ullah Lone
"For the first time in so many years we are able to sit out in the open enjoying the winter sun without any fear of firing," one man on the Indian side told the BBC on Wednesday.

The United States, which was instrumental in defusing tension between the nuclear rivals last year, welcomed the ceasefire.

But spokesmen for the largest separatist groups have said they are not bound by the truce and will continue their guerrilla war.

Hardliners opposed to Indian rule say the truce is "meaningless" unless the Kashmir dispute is resolved.

'Stop the militants'

Pakistan made the offer of a ceasefire along the LoC on Sunday, to coincide with the festival of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

India accepted Pakistan's offer a day later, and said it would extend it to the disputed Siachen glacier area - the world's highest battlefield.

However, the Indian foreign ministry said the ceasefire could become durable only if Pakistan stopped allowing extremists into Indian-administered Kashmir.

Indian soldier on the Line of Control
The two sides exchange fire almost daily
Pakistan has always denied arming the 14-year-old uprising against Indian rule in Kashmir, saying it only lends diplomatic backing to an indigenous insurgency.

Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both countries and has been the cause of two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

For the last 14 years Kashmir separatists have staged an insurgency in the Indian-controlled part of the territory.

The armed forces of India and Pakistan exchange fire almost daily along the LoC, which was drawn up in 1971 and divides the disputed territory into two halves. Civilians living near the border are routinely killed in the shelling.

Last year, the two countries' armies massed hundreds of thousands of troops on the border following an attack on the Indian parliament, which India blamed on Islamic militants from Kashmir and Pakistani intelligence services.

The two sides have since restored full diplomatic ties and some transport links.

But India has rejected bilateral talks with Pakistan until attacks in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir stop.




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