When the largest Kashmiri guerilla group called a ceasefire last week, there was a brief glimmer of hope that something serious on the peace front might be possible. India responded quickly by ordering its army to halt operations against this coalition of 32 separate organisations. But then the zealots took charge. The dozen or so other guerilla movements rejected all talk of peace and began murderous attacks against Indian interests. About 100 people, many of them Hindu pilgrims, have been killed since these raids began. And India and Pakistan have resumed their normal habit of blaming each other for the entire decades-old Kashmir problem. The prospects for negotiations are not yet dead but there is little reason for optimism. It is an old story, reminiscent of the tortuous Middle East peace process and other rivalries fuelled by religious and ethnic hatreds. Once a rational move is made, or a sensible voice is heard, the self-righteous killers rise up to sabotage talk of negotiations and compromise. Unable to achieve the impossible, they refuse to consider anything less. The only certain results are more death and destruction, generally of those caught in the middle. Precisely what is happening in Kashmir is, as always, a bit murky. But there is little doubt that the current military Government of Pakistan has increased support for Islamic guerillas in a war they they cannot win. Although Islamabad concedes offering only 'moral support', there is no reason to believe that claim. Yet neither India nor Pakistan deserve much credit for their handling of the Kashmiri problem. They have given prime importance to what should be a peripheral issue, and made settlement increasingly difficult. About 25,000 people have died since fighting intensified in 1989, and so far neither side has shown the courage and foresight needed to stop it.