India and Pakistan agree Kashmir truce

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The Independent Online
PAKISTAN ANNOUNCED a truce with India over Kashmir yesterday, in a move to end the two-month-old flare-up that brought the states close to war.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, said Muslim guerrillas fighting Indian rule had already begun pulling out of the Kargil area of Kashmir last night, under a disengagement agreement reached between military officials. "Gradually the disengagement will be completed in the entire area," Mr Aziz said.

Pakistani officials said the agreement would enable the fighters to withdraw to Pakistan-controlled territory without being attacked by the Indian army. The process would take up to two weeks, after which the fighters would disperse.

Mr Aziz said the agreement was worked out at a meeting of senior military officials from the two countries. Although Indian and Pakistani military chiefshave spoken regularly on the telephone since the fighting began in May, yesterday was their first face-to-face meeting.The talks took place a week after Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, flew to Washington to meet President Bill Clinton, who urged him to end the hostilities.

Mr Aziz put a brave face on what is widely seen as an Indian victory, insisting the Muslim fighters had succeeded in internationalising the cause of Kashmiri self-determination. India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over Kashmir's status since they gained independence from Britain in 1947. About two-thirds of Kashmir is ruled by India while the rest is held by Pakistan.

"In the past few weeks the mujahedin action has been gloriously successful as the just and legitimate cause of Kashmir has engaged the international community's undivided attention," he said. However, the only gain Pakistan appears to have made was to extract a pledge from US President Bill Clinton to urge India to resume peace talks with Islamabad.

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