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Kashmiri Separatists Criticize India's Rejection of Proposed Cease-Fire - 2003-08-13

Separatist groups in Indian Kashmir have criticized India's rejection of a call by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for a cease-fire along the disputed Kashmir border. Violence in the region continues, with two more people killed and 30 wounded in separate attacks blamed on Islamic militants. Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the Huriyat Conference, is urging India to accept a cease-fire offer by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Huriyat leader Molvi Abbas Ansari says a cease-fire along the so-called "line of control" that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan could add momentum to the peace process between the two countries.

The line is one of the world's most volatile borders. Cross-border shelling and shooting between the two armies are reported almost daily. Hundreds of people on both sides, both civilians and soldiers, have been killed or wounded in the exchanges in recent decades.

The offer of a cease-fire was made in a speech by President Musharraf on Tuesday, to a visiting group of Indian lawmakers and journalists. But India dismissed the suggestion out of hand, calling it propaganda.

The Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, says the security situation along the disputed frontier will improve only when Pakistan stops infiltrating Muslim militants into Indian territory.

"The facts point to continuing Pakistani support through funding, training, indoctrination, launch and guidance," said Mr. Sarna. "Instead of propagandist statements, Pakistan should take long-term measures to dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism."

Pakistan strongly denies the charge that it still supports Islamic militants waging a separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir.

Political analysts say New Delhi's accusation of Pakistani complicity in the insurgency is holding up the peace process, which began in April with New Delhi offering a "hand of friendship" to Pakistan.

Brahma Chellaney of the Independent Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi says more than symbolic gestures are needed.

"We are not seeing a real peace process on the way, because a peace process is a serious business, and it involves a genuine effort by both sides to overcome issues that divide them," he said. "The process involves creating the right atmosphere for dialogue, and we are seeing neither."

The cost of continued antagonism was demonstrated again Wednesday in two separate incidents in Kashmir. Several people were wounded in a bombing near a bank in Bandipora town, about 60 kilometers north of Srinagar. And at least one civilian was killed and several others injured in Kulgam town, about 70 kilometers south of Srinagar, when suspected militants hurled a grenade at a security patrol.

At least 35,000 people have died in Kashmir, in military fighting or terrorist attacks, since the Muslim separatist insurgency erupted in 1989.