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Pakistan., America and India -The Emerging Scenario
Kalyan K Mitra

Pakistan's new Kashmir policy is slowly but unmistakably taking shape. As Musharraf is preparing to legitimize his rule for another five years following the so-called "referendum", he would do everything possible to keep the Kashmir Issue on the boil by turning a blind eye to ISI operation to regroup militants for terrorist attacks in the J&K. Pakistan's denials notwithstanding, the Afghanistan and Kashmir Cells of the ISI are reportedly active once again because these are deemed vital for Pakistan's security. Large number of extremists arrested after Musharraf's January 12 address have been released already for want of evidence. The founder leader of Laskar-e-Toiba, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, has been set free by the Pakistani court. Though Pakistan has handed over a number of Al-Qaida warriors to the U.S. authorities including Zubaydah, a top leader of the organization, Afghan sources provide credible reports that the ISI and fundamentalist clerics in Pakistan are still providing shelter and help to the Taliban and Al-Qaida fighters who escaped U.S. military offensive in eastern Afghanistan. Without doubt there is clear danger of escalation of terrorist attacks against selected targets in the J&K and other parts of India. The recent attack on a BSF camp and the suicide attack on the Raghunath Temple are warnings of more such incidents in the coming weeks and months. Musharraf's promise to curb terrorism in all its forms has proved hollow. Although in the U.S. and the Western capitals, Musharraf is being described as the leader of a front-line state in the "war against terror" the media in the US has begun to publish reports that the ISI has resumed its old habit of helping the • Al-Qaida and cross-border terrorist activities in Kashmir.   

Not satisfied with Musharraf's words, India has rightly decided not to lower its guard or bring troops back from the forward positions till it is convinced that there is visible reduction in infiltration into the valley. This can be determined only after the snow melts. However, the communication channels between the two countries - both diplomatic as well as at the DGMO's level - need to be kept open and used regularly. There is risk of the two sides misreading each others actions resulting in accidental military engagement which can be counter productive and disrupt India's long-delayed political and economic initiatives in Kashmir which cannot wait. A mechanism for preventing escalation of tension must be in place so that even if there is any military confrontation, it can be managed well below the nuclear threshold.

But how long will Musharraf be able to bluff the world that Pakistan has eschewed terrorism in all its forms? As long as the US is reluctant to confront Musharraf. Following September 11 attack, America focussed on Pakistan in a single minded quest for a spring board for its war against terror and continues to award merit points to Musharraf. Within the Blish administration there is considerable support for the argument that Musharraf's survival must take procedence over ending cross-border terrorism. As far as Pakistan is concerned, America wants to see Pakistan transformed into a moderate Islamic State and nothing more. The U.S. is not only reluctant to use its leverage to ensure that the military dictator finally hands over power to democratically elected government in Pakistan, it has actually acquiesced in the "referendum" which will pave the way for the general's continued rule for another five years. The vision of a popularly elected government in Pakistan does not figure in the US agenda. The majority in Washington seems to be quite comfortable with reviving and restoring old ties with Pakistan. This is evident from the statements regularly coming from both the Defence Department and the State Department.

The foundations of the US administration's current "new look" India policy were laid towards the end of the Clinton era. Under Bush, the idea initially and primarily took shape in the President's mind. Unfortunately, it has not, till today, premeated all over the administration. India all but vanished from the U.S. radar screen following September 11. The December, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and more importantly, India's sharp diplomatic and military response triggered a change in Washington's perception and made for better appreciation of Pakistan - sponsored cross-border terrorism. To make this happen, the US Ambassador Robert Blackwill played a vital role. But the habit of seeing events in the sub-continent with the old mindset of balancing the two countries has not disappeared completely. As a result, the US often appears to look at happenings in Pakistan more positively.

India, on its part, along with Russia and China, needs to readjust its political and military strategy in response to the new geopolitical reality of American military presence in the South and Central Asian region. This would necessitate review of common threats to national security and stability by all the three countries. In the months to come, leaders of these countries will be busy developing mechanism for exchange of views and cooperation in the context of the altered geo-strategic scenario in this part of the world. High level interaction between China and India has already begun.

Pakistan is, in the final analysis, only a part of India's problem. As far as Kashmir is concerned, India needs to have a good look at its own turf as well. The much-duscussed and long-awaited battle for winning the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir is yet to begin. As long as people of the state remain alienated and feel that they have no stake in the unity and integrity of India, the problem of Kashmir will defy lasting solution. A genuinely responsive, people-friendly representative Government is the need of «he hour. The forthcoming elections should be free, fair and truly participatory. The aspirations of the people of the state should be addressed and fulfilled through devolution of powers within the framework of the Constitution. The NDA Government's image has taken a beating at home and abroad as a result of recent happenings. The high moral ground India gained globally as a victim of state sponsored terrorism has been lost following the chain of events it^Gujarat and the dismal failure of the state Government to restore normalcy and protect innocent citizens who became victims of communal killings. Prime Minister Vajpyaee has his hands full and we all wish him luck as the road ahead (or India appears full of hurdles.

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Last modified: January 20, 2004