US presses Pakistan over Kashmir militants
By Hamish McDonald
Herald Correspondent in Islamabad
Sydney Morning Herald - March 29 2003
The United States has indicated it will pressure Pakistan to crack down once again on terrorists involved in the struggle to wrest Kashmir from Indian rule, amid signs of a weakening effort by Pakistani security authorities.
Last Sunday's attack by gunmen on a village in Indian Kashmir, in which 24 members of the state's minority Hindu population were lined up and executed, threatens a "new crisis" in relations between India and Pakistan, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Christina Rocca, said.
Already this week both countries have tested nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and exchanged artillery fire across the line demarcating their sectors of Kashmir, disputed since the two countries were carved out of British India in 1947. The two came close to war last year after previous terrorist attacks in India.
"We look to Pakistan to do everything in its power to prevent extremist groups operating from its soil from crossing the Line of Control," Ms Rocca told the US Senate foreign relations committee on Wednesday. "Pakistan has taken steps to curb infiltration but we are asking the Government to redouble its efforts."
India reacted with outrage to an earlier suggestion by the US State Department that it resume dialogue with Pakistan, talking of "double standards" compared with the US approach to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The combat against international terrorism is ill served if threats in some cases are met with military means and in others with calls for restraint and dialogue," said the External Affairs Ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, who went on to call Pakistan "the epicentre of international terrorism".
Western diplomats in Islamabad say Pakistan has eased off the clampdown on Kashmir militant groups applied soon after the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks in New York and Washington. Most of the 2000 militants it rounded up were released at the end of last year, and some of the banned groups have emerged under new names.
Even when in detention, some notorious anti-Indian and sectarian terrorists enjoyed unprecedentedly lenient conditions, with some paid a stipend of 10,000 rupees ($300) a month, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted in its annual report this month.
Diplomats have said that Hafez Sayeed, leader of the banned Laskar-e-Taiba terrorist group, has re-emerged in public, with his group renamed the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and has shared the platform with leaders of Pakistan's Islamist opposition at rallies against the US-led attack on Iraq. He calls for a holy war in Kashmir.
Another old face is Masud Azhar, of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed, who was released after seven years in an Indian jail as part of a bargain to end the hijacking of an Indian Airlines passenger jet to Kandahar in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan four years ago. His group now operates as the Khudam-ul Islam.
"The Pakistanis promised to keep these people on a tight leash," one diplomat said. "But the leash seems to be getting longer and longer." Noting that Pakistan's intelligence agencies were co-operating in the hunt for al-Qaeda, but kept contact with Kashmir militants, the diplomat said: "You wonder how much longer they can try to keep up a distinction between good terrorists and bad terrorists."
India is expected to try to hold Washington to the issue by making vague threats of cross-border raids against militant bases and other military reprisals, but is regarded as unlikely to carry these out.
"They would hit a couple of tents and an obstacle course," a diplomat said. "If they thought there was any value in this they would have done it already. They will probably do what they did last time: try to leverage as much gain as possible from the situation, and then try to get credit for restraining themselves from what they don't want to do anyway."
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/03/28/1048653860898.html