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Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Analysis: Kashmiri militants' dilemma
Arrested Kashmiri militants
Arrested militants are taken away by Indian forces
By South Asia analyst Solmaz Dabiri

It took a few hours for some militant groups, and more than a day for many groups supporting militancy in Kashmir, to react to the news of a ceasefire offer by Hizbul Mujahideen last week.

The fact that the news had come from Hizbul Mujaheedin's field commander in the Kashmir Valley rather than their supreme commander, Syed Salahuddin (who is mostly based in Pakistan) added to the confusion.

Kashmir moves
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Hizbul Mujahideen announces ceasefire
But with the confirmation a day later that Mr Salahuddin had endorsed the offer, those groups which had condemned the announcement, were left with a hard choice.

The United Jihad Council, an alliance of 14 militant groups opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir - of which Hizbul Mujahideen was a member - was forced to suspend the group's membership.

Dilemma

The dilemma facing those militant groups which have condemned the ceasefire is understandable, given that the Hizbul Mujahideen is unlikely to have taken the decision without consulting at least some of its allies on both sides of the border.

This may be a factor in the delayed response of many militant groups.

The ceasefire offer comes after intensified regional and international efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the dispute.

Site of a bomb blast in Indian Kashmir
Islamic militancy is now seen as a threat by the West
There have been previous attempts over the years to resolve it, but they have failed mainly because of the strategic balance of power between India and Pakistan.

That balance has now shifted with a change in Washington's policy in the region, which no longer considers Pakistan a close ally and a Muslim bulwark against the Soviet encroachment southwards.

Besides, Islamic militancy, once so favoured by Western and in particular American policy- makers notably during the war in Afghanistan, is now seen as a major threat.

During his visit to South Asia earlier this year, the American President Bill Clinton made it very clear what he expected from Islamabad regarding the Kashmiri rebels.

Pressure

Pressure has been mounting on Islamabad in recent months to curb the activities of Kashmiri militants, to whom Pakistan says it is only giving moral support.

JKLF activists protesting
Some groups have already renounced violence
A number of Hurriyat prisoners have been released from Indian jails in recent months, a move widely regarded as a sweetener to dialogue.

The alliance has reacted cautiously to Monday's announcement, saying Hizbul Mujahideen has been hasty.

It is difficult to assess whether far-reaching consultations among militant groups - or at least some of them - about a possible ceasefire took place before the announcement.

But what is even more difficult to understand is why the Hizbul Mujahideen decided to jump the gun before a sensible consensus.

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See also:

12 Jun 00 | South Asia
Sharif blames army for Kashmir conflict
09 Jun 00 | South Asia
'Better Kashmir intelligence needed'
26 May 99 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Under fire in Kargil
27 Oct 99 | South Asia
US urges Pakistani pullback in Kashmir
15 Jul 99 | South Asia
Flashpoint Kashmir: Special Report
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