President Pervez Musharraf has been doing his utmost to bring to heel Kashmiri militant groups, and demands by the United States and India for action against them mirror his policy, Pakistan's foremost expert on the border conflict says. But Riffat Hussain, a professor in international relations at Islamabad's prestigious Quaid-e-Azam University, believes General Musharraf will not hesitate to go to war if unduly provoked. Dr Hussain, chairman of the university's Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, said that for the past year, General Musharraf - with the backing of the military generals who swept him to power in a coup two years ago - had been gradually implementing a new policy towards Kashmir. While this still maintained that Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir should be a unified entity, militant action by guerilla groups to achieve that aim was discouraged. The softly, softly approach was necessary so as not to cause a backlash among strong pro-Kashmiri elements. Washington's declaration that the Pakistani-based groups Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba - blamed for the December 13 attack on India's Parliament which left 14 people dead - were terrorist groups was in line with General Musharraf's policy, Dr Hussain said. 'I don't think there's a contradiction between what the US wants Musharraf to do and what he wants to do for his own domestic reasons,' he added. Even before September 11, General Musharraf had given a warning to both groups to curb their activities and had frozen the assets of two other groups blamed for sectarian violence. Since then, there had been added reason for a continuation of such a policy, and their offices had been closed, members forced from cities and leaders arrested. 'Prior to September 11, these people had a kind of free rein,' Dr Hussain said. 'But post-September 11, Musharraf is as much concerned about their ability to incite violence against the military as is the international community about their activities in Kashmir.' But the situation was nonetheless difficult. India's demands for immediate action could not possibly be entertained due to the delicacy of dealing with groups that had a popular following in border regions with India. 'The Pakistani position is that these groups do have some degree of societal support and it will take some time before Musharraf is able to wipe them out,' Dr Hussain said. 'Anybody who wants to fight for the rights of Kashmiris does have some sort of resonance in Pakistan because we have a very large Muslim population and there are many Kashmiris divided by the Line of Control - so there is a natural sympathy for what goes on in Indian-held Kashmir. 'Musharraf cannot simply outlaw these organisations and arrest their leadership and throw them into jail. Any activity against them must be done incrementally.' Dr Hussain said General Musharraf had done more than any other Pakistani leader to promote dialogue with India, but added: 'The Indians are literally holding a gun to his head.'