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India Joins Pakistan in Declaring Kashmir Cease-Fire - 2003-11-25


India has matched Pakistan's offer of a cease-fire in the disputed region of Kashmir, beginning Wednesday. That coincides with the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The armies of India and Pakistan will begin observing the ceasefire along the Line of Control, the border that divides Kashmir between the two countries. It also applies to the frontier area of the Siachen Glacier.

The armies trade heavy artillery and machine gun fire almost daily across Line of Control, resulting in military and civilian casualties, and uprooting villagers from their homes.

Some analysts say the upcoming January visit by India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the Pakistan capital, Islamabad, gives both sides an incentive to stop their forces from clashing.

Brahma Chellaney of the New Delhi-based think-tank, the Center for Policy Research says both countries are concerned about their international image.

"They are trying to play to the international gallery," said Mr. Chellaney. "At least until January, there will be an interest by both sides to tone down the rhetoric, to try to give the impression that things are changing for the better."

Pakistan's Prime Minister announced a unilateral ceasefire Sunday.

The two nuclear-powered rivals have fought two wars over Kashmir. They came close to a third last year, massing hundreds of thousands of troops along the Line of Control.

It is the first formal ceasefire between the two nations since Islamic militants launched an insurgency in Kashmir in 1989.

The fighting has had implications beyond Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the militants, which it says sneak into Indian territory to launch attacks against its forces, charges which Pakistan denies.

Despite the ceasefire, India has not shifted from its position the infiltration into Kashmir must stop before a more durable peace can be achieved.

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