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Delhi cool to truce cry

New Delhi, Nov. 5: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today called for a Ramazan ceasefire in Kashmir, but is unlikely to get an enthusiastic response from the Centre.

“The Centre has announced such a ceasefire in the past as a good gesture and they can do it again,” the chief minister said, ahead of his visit to the capital.

The People’s Democratic Party had promised to work towards “peace with honour” for the people of Kashmir and towards bringing the separatists back to the mainstream. Mufti had appealed to the militants to lay down their guns, saying the government would take up the issue through negotiations with the Centre.

Though the government has not formally reacted to Mufti’s statement, senior officials said in private that Delhi is in no mood to repeat its mistake. “After the Prime Minister’s announcement last time, militant killings went up. It also gave the separatists a chance to regroup, procure arms and finances. When the ceasefire ended, our security forces had to work twice as much to get the same results,” an official said.

Though the Vajpayee government will be willing to begin talks, ceasefire is ruled out at the moment. The army will not be happy with any let up in operations against militants. After the terror strike on Parliament last December, India is in no mood to lower its guard. The suicide attacks at the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar as well as Sunday’s attempt to strike at the Ansal Plaza shopping complex will weigh heavily on the Centre when it takes a decision.

Calling a halt to operations against militants will finally be a political decision for the Vajpayee government. With the Gujarat elections just over a month away, the BJP government is unlikely to give an impression of being a “soft state”.

“If Pakistan was not a player, Mufti’s suggestion would be seriously considered but as militants get their line from Islamabad, the issue is much more complicated. Much will depend on India-Pakistan ties and so far nothing has happened to ease tension,” another official said.

Home-grown militants, like the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, what remains of the JKLF and other Kashmiri groups, are not the problem. The main fire power is with the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Delhi suspects that Lashkar and Jaish are used by Islamabad to carry out terrorist strikes in Kashmir and other parts of the country.

“We have to learn from our mistakes,” said a senior official. Before any decision is taken, the government has to consult with the security forces and the intelligence agencies. Neither will recommend a slowdown in the fight against terror.

Though the Congress has not formally seconded Mufti’s stand, it believes the Centre, which has all relevant inputs, would be in a better position to judge if the time is right for a ceasefire.

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