Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
World: South Asia
Pakistan and the Kashmir militants
Young fighters in Pakistan enlist for Kashmir
By South Asia Analyst Alastair Lawson
Militant groups active in Pakistan have said they will consider a request from Islamabad to withdraw from territory they have occupied in Indian administered Kashmir.
Their announcement follows talks between the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Clinton in Washington. The two leaders agreed that concrete steps needed to be taken for the restoration of the Line of Control in Kashmir.
Ever since militant groups first became active in Kashmir 10 years ago, India has accused Pakistan of arming and training them. Delhi says that the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence agency has provided them with training facilities and camps in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Government has consistently denied that its troops are in Indian administered Kashmir. It says that it only provides the various militant groups with moral, diplomatic and political support.
Diverse militant groups
Most of the militant groups active in the Kargil area say they are controlled by the United Jihad Council, an organisation comprising 14 militant groups. Of these only five are considered to be influential: Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Badar and Tehrik-i-Jihad.
Commentators in Pakistan say that it would not be difficult for the Pakistani Government and military to curtail the activities of these groups in the Kargil area. They point out that it would be virtually impossible for them to hold onto positions in Indian administered Kashmir without the logistical support of the Pakistani army.
That raises the question of whether or not the army is supportive of Mr Sharif's pledge to encourage the militants to leave the Kargil area.
That has been the case ever since Mr Sharif appeared to assert his control over the army last October, when he dismissed the army chief, General Jehangir Karamat, after he made a speech in which he criticised the government.
Sources say that ever since the Kargil dispute began, Mr Sharif has gone out of his way to take the military into his confidence.
However, there is always the danger that some militant groups will not accept his plea for them to withdraw. That may especially be the case among the more hardline groups which embrace a more rigid form of Islam.
Likewise Mr Sharif will no doubt be eager to ensure that his effort to resolve the Kargil stand-off does not end up antagonising his political opponents. Already Pakistan's largest Islamic based party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, has said they do not believe the militants should come back.