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India Welcomes Pakistan's Unilateral Kashmir Cease-Fire - 2003-11-24

The Indian government says it welcomes Pakistan's decision to implement a unilateral ceasefire along the Line of Control, which marks border between the two nuclear rivals in the disputed Kashmir region. An Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman says the government would respond positively to Pakistan's unilateral ceasefire, timed to begin with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

But Navtej Sarna repeated New Delhi's demand that Pakistan stop Islamic militants from crossing into Indian territory to carry out attacks.

"However, in order to establish a full ceasefire on a durable basis, there here must be an end to infiltration from across the Line of Control," he added.

Pakistan denies assisting Islamic militants in Kashmir who have fought against Indian forces for the past 14 years. But the two nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars in the past 50 years for control of the region and came close to a third war last year.

Mr. Sarna did not say when the government would issue a formal response, or if it would reciprocate with its own ceasefire. But he said India might be willing to agree to a ceasefire beyond the Line of Control in the mountainous area of the Siachen glacier, known as the world's highest battleground.

"To take this process further we propose a ceasefire along the … Actual Ground Position Line - in Siachen," he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali announced late Sunday that Pakistani forces would observe a complete ceasefire along the Line of Control. It could go into effect Wednesday or Thursday, because of different interpretations of the end the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

There are signs of a thaw in relations between India and Pakistan, which have been seriously strained since December 2001, when Islamic militants attacked India's parliament. India accuses Pakistan of being behind the attack, charges Pakistan denies.

Last month, the two sides agreed to resume some sporting events and opened a highway for busses to run between the two nations.