Guns Fall Silent on Kashmir Border

July 13, 1999 - 0:0
TEHRAN Indian and Pakistani guns fell silent across the Kashmir border Monday for the first time in two months after both sides agreed to a military disengagement in the region, AFP reported. However, Indian officers said the army remained on high alert despite evidence that Islamic infiltrators had already begun withdrawing from their positions on the Indian side of the border.

The "disengagement" agreement between senior military officials from both sides was reached Sunday as India claimed to be nearing total victory in its offensive to evict the infiltrators. The Indian campaign was launched May 9 when the Muslim guerrillas' incursion across the Line of Control (LOC) dividing Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir was first detected. Meanwhile, another AFP report said Pakistan's Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz Monday renewed support for Kashmir's "self-determination" movement, after Muslim fighters started withdrawing from captured peaks in Indian Kashmir. Aziz, meeting Kashmiri political leaders here, told them Pakistan would maintain its "unequivocal and consistent support" until Kashmiris achieved their rights, an official statement said.

Aziz said the "courageous" battles of Mujahideen (freedom fighters) on the Kargil heights in Indian Kashmir had put Kashmir "at the centre stage of the world agenda." Pakistan said Sunday a phased withdrawal of fighters from the Kargil region had started after senior Pakistani and Indian military officials met and agreed on a disengagement of forces. The withdrawal came a week after Pakistani Premier Nawaz Shraif's July 4 meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington during which he agreed to work for a withdrawal of fighters.

In the meantime, India said on Monday that it had given Pakistani forces until the morning of July 16 to withdraw from India's side of Kashmir, and Pakistan's military operations chief had agreed to the schedule, Reuters said. "During his meeting with the Pakistani DGMO (director-general of military operations) yesterday, our DGMO informed him that Pakistani forces must withdraw well north of the Line of Control by the morning of July 16. The Pakistani DGMO said that Pakistan would comply with this schedule," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Raminder Singht Jassal told a news conference.

Jassal said Pakistan must abandon cross-border terrorism in India's Jammu and Kashmir state, where 10 years of separatist insurgency has claimed some 25,000 lives. The state's police chief said last week that an estimated 800 militants had crossed into the state from Pakistan over the past two months.