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Musharraf Announces Crackdown on Kashmiri Militants

Pakistan’s President Musharaff announced a ban on militant groups India accuses of attacking its parliament. India says it will now wait for concrete action before ending the military build-up on the Kashmir border.

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Indian Foreign Jaswant Singh: "We welcome the declared commitment"

India called on Pakistan on Sunday to match words with action and said it would not call off its military build-up until Islamabad delivered a promise to end Islamic militant attacks on its neighbour.

Despite welcoming the crackdown on militants announced by Musharref, India’s Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said Pakistan must stop all movement made by militants into Indian Kashmir, before the biggest military build-up since the two nuclear rivals won independence in 1947, could be ended.

"Let there be no further infiltration or cross-border terrorism," Singh told a news conference. "We have to go not by the stated intent but by the action on the ground."

Analysts said they saw a glimmer of hope for an end to the dispute between the two nuclear powers, after a landmark speech on Saturday by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf who promised his country would not be used as a base for Islamic militant "jihad".

In a televised address to the nation, Musharref announced a ban on 5 militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which India blames for an attack on the Indian parliament last month.

Musharraf pledged on Saturday to crack down on religious extremism and promised that "no organisation will be permitted to engage in terrorism under cover of the Kashmir cause."

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, had prepared for several days for his speech, as the international calls for an end the dispute increased.

Blaming religious extremists for breeding violence, he vowed to bring Islamic schools and mosques under government control – Pakistan’s Islamic schools have long been seen as breeding grounds for militants.

But he said no Pakistanis on a list of 20 militants India wants handed over would be surrendered despite leaving the options on foreigners open.

Singh said India was disappointed at Musharraf's lack of action on the list of militants. Pakistan says it gives only moral support to Kashmiri separatists, a position reiterated by Musharraf who said on Saturday Pakistan would never abandon the Kashmiri cause. "Kashmir runs in our blood. No Pakistani can break links with Kashmir". Indian Foreign Minister said that India remained committed to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan, but "rejects entirely the content of the Pakistani president’s speech on the situation in Kashmir".

New Delhi has long blamed Pakistan for fuelling a 12-year revolt against its rule in Jammu and Kashmir, which is mostly Hindu India's only Muslim-majority state.

The two countries, which held nuclear tests in 1998, have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

International Praise

The United States and Europe, including Germany, quickly welcomed his speech which outlined a vision for a modern Islamic Pakistan. The U.S. State Department said Musharraf's speech marked a clear break with the violence of the past.

Spain, which holds the European Union presidency, welcomed Musharraf's promise to crack down on militants. British Prime Minister Tony Blair called his stance "courageous" and Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer described the announced measures as a step on the way to an open and peaceful society.

More tensions

But with close to one million men massed on either side of Kashmir the border, and tensions still running high over the disputed Himalayan region, there is still some way to go before the South Asian region could breathe more easily.

India’s army, whose head General Padmanabhan said on Friday it was ready for war, would stay in place until Musharraf implemented the pledge. But India will have to give Pakistan the time to translate ist promises into action. And fears prevail that militants and fundamentalists may try to sabotage Pervez Musharraf's plans.

Meanwhile, armed Pakistani police pursued the crackdown overnight, detaining some 130 people and sealing off offices. Indian attention will also be focused on whether Pakistan can stop militants crossing the Line of Control, a military ceasefire line dividing disputed Kashmir.

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