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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Q&A: Kashmir peacekeeping options
Britain and the United States have offered to send troops to monitor the Line of Control separating Indian and Pakistani troops in Kashmir.

BBC News Online World Affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds examines how and why such a force might be deployed.

Why make this offer?

It is part of the international attempt to stop a war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a mainly mountainous region which has been in dispute between them since the British pulled out of India in 1947.

The thinking is that outside troops would monitor the Line of Control, a ceasefire line which is recognised by both sides, in order to show that Pakistan is not sending in irregular forces.

Pakistan has certainly done so in the past and India says it is not convinced by promises that this will stop.

Pakistan has supported claims by the Muslim majority in Kashmir for an end to Indian rule. India says such support amounts to terrorism and that Kashmir will remain part of India.

Would this be a United Nations force?

No. The offer is for British and American troops, to be added to by other countries probably.

They would operate under the control of their own governments. The US in particular is reluctant to put its forces under UN control.

There is, in fact, a UN force already in Kashmir, on both sides. It is called Unmogip (UN military observer group in India and Pakistan).

It has been there since 1949 to monitor the ceasefire in the original fighting. It is a modest force, having only 44 observers.

Like many such UN border forces, its role is minimal, and until this crisis most people had no idea it was there.

How would this new force work?

There would have to be soldiers stationed along the Line of Control, but since this runs through mountains for hundreds of kilometres, it would need several hundred troops at the minimum.

Another idea is for the Indians to set up, with American help, radar stations and monitoring devices to help alert them to trouble. The force would not intervene in any fighting.

Is it likely to happen?

Pakistan would be willing to consider the plan, as it likes anything which internationalises the issue, but India has always opposed outside intervention in what it regards as an internal problem.

India is always very sensitive even to the idea of mediation.

The then British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook found that out for himself on a visit five years ago.

He made a discreet remark to the Pakistanis about being willing to help which the Indians pounced on. Mr Cook had a rough ride when he went on to India and had a public row with an Indian journalist in the garden of a British diplomat.

What arguments will the Americans use?

The US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage - the man who persuaded the Pakistani leader General Musharraf to support the war in Afghanistan - will tell India that it is in its own interests to solve this crisis without going to war.

Therefore, a role for a foreign monitoring group should be considered. By accepting a role for outsiders, India would gain international support for its position about the future of Kashmir.

Are such border monitoring forces of any use?

Frankly, one has to conclude that these forces do not really count when governments are determined to go to war.

And when there is a secure peace, the forces do not have that much to do. It is surprising how many such forces there are and how long they have been there.

Once in, it is hard for them to get out. Anyone travelling round the Middle East, for example keeps on bumping into them.

Where are such forces operating?

The UN force in Cyprus, Unficyp, has been checking tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1964.

There is Untso, the UN truce supervisory organisation which was sent in to monitor the ceasefire between Israel and Arab states in 1948 - and is still there.

Undof, the UN disengagement observer force, has been on the Golan Heights since 1972 watching the ceasefire between Israel and Syria.

Perhaps the force with the hardest job has been Unfil, the UN interim force in Lebanon. It has been "interim" since 1978 when it was sent there after an Israeli invasion. It could not prevent another in 1982.

What about non-UN forces?

An example of a non-UN force is the MFA, the Multinational Force and Observers, which has been operating in the Sinai desert for more than 20 years to check on the demilitarisation of the Sinai after the 1973 war between Israel and Egypt.

Since both sides have kept the peace, it has been a pleasant assignment in a dramatic landscape and Canadian soldiers going there are advised to bring a camera as there are "lots of photo opportunities."

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