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The BBC's Jill McGivering in Delhi
"Officials in Delhi have distanced themselves from the general's comments"
 real 28k

Friday, 28 July, 2000, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Kashmir offensive 'suspended'
Indian soldiers during a search operation
Indian soldiers will respond if attacked by militants
An Indian army general has said that troops are suspending offensive operations against all militant groups in Indian-administered Kashmir.

But military officials in Delhi deny there has been any such change in policy.

The apparent contradiction comes just days after one of the main militant groups, the Hizbul Mujahideen, announced a temporary ceasefire.


There would be no deliberate action against militants on our part

Major General Basant Singh
Major-General Basant Singh told journalists in the state capital Srinagar that there would be no deliberate action against the militants by the army.

He, however, clarified that the troops would remain on alert to meet any militant challenge.

"Anti-insurgency operations cannot be suspended. If they (militants) come and attack us, we will respond."

He also said that a tight vigil would be maintained along the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan.

However, a military spokesman in Delhi told the BBC there had been no change in the military's stance, and that reports of a new policy being adopted were wrong.

Analysts say the authorities may be distancing themselves from apparent changes on the ground because a formal announcement in Delhi would carry much greater political weight.

Confusion

The Hizbul Mujahideen's ceasefire announcement has already generated a lot of confusion.

When the group's field commander in Indian administered Kashmir, Abdul Majid Dar, made the announcement on Monday, many thought he did not have the approval of Hizbul's Pakistan-based chief, Syed Salahuddin.

Indian soldiers in Kashmir
Hizbul is just one of the groups Indian soldiers are fighting
Syed Salahuddin not only endorsed the decision but even reiterated an offer of talks with the Indian Government.

This angered the other Kashmiri militant groups based in Pakistan, and their umbrella group - the United Jihad Council - suspended Hizbul's membership.

Pakistan's main religious Jamaat-e-Islami party - which has been linked to the Hizbul Mujahideen - has severed its association.

Both the Jamaat and the United Jihad Council have said they do not respect the ceasefire and will continue their campaign against India.

Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan and is seen as a major flashpoint in the region.

Kashmiri separatists have been fighting for over a decade to end Indian rule in the region.

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See also:

26 Jul 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Kashmiri militants' dilemma
26 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir truce condemned
24 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir militants offer ceasefire
15 Jul 99 | South Asia
Flashpoint Kashmir: Special Report
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