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Pakistan Declares Unilateral Kashmir Cease-Fire with India - 2003-11-23

Pakistan is declaring a unilateral cease-fire with India in the disputed mountain territory of Kashmir. The action is a response to a series of peace moves, which India offered in October.

Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali says his country will stop shelling Indian-controlled Kashmir, and is calling for India to enter into formal talks over the disputed territory.

Indian and Pakistani artillery routinely duel across the "Line of Control," separating their respective portions of Kashmir, a territory which both nations claim entirely as their own. While the shelling is aimed at military emplacements, it often results in civilian casualties.

In August, Pakistan proposed a bilateral cease-fire, though India turned down the offer, questioning its seriousness.

But speaking in a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Jamali said Pakistan would silence its guns regardless of the Indian position. He also reiterated Pakistan's call for peace-talks on the Kashmir issue and expressed interested in discussing recent confidence-building measures proposed by India.

Those measures include opening bus service between Indian- and Pakistani-held Kashmir, along with other travel links.

Former Pakistani Ambassador Mansoor Alam said both the cease-fire and the confidence-building moves are important in defusing tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

But he added that a definitive solution to the half-century-old Kashmir dispute is unlikely anytime soon. "It is only up to a limit that one can go in this game, and not more. Neither can Pakistan nor can India bring enough pressure to bear upon the other side to make concessions on vital points," he said.

He added India is also unlikely to make any radical changes to its positions on the Kashmir issue before its general elections, scheduled for next year.

Prime Minister Jamali said the start of the cease-fire will coincide with the major Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, which will fall on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.