The India-Pakistan Crisis

The World and I, March 2002 | Go to article overview

The India-Pakistan Crisis


Mixed signals

PAKISTAN--Mixed signals are emanating from New Delhi and Washington on the current confrontation between Pakistan and India. While New Delhi continues to exert immense military and political pressure on Pakistan, the U.S. seems to be gently softening the tone of its pronouncements on Pakistan, moving away from its distinctly pro-Indian tilt of recent days.

The most alarming note in the on-going war of nerves between the two countries was struck [Jan. 11] by the Indian army chief when he described the situation on the borders as very serious and categorically stated that there was "scope for a limited conventional war." Alarmingly, the general did not rule out a nuclear strike against Pakistan if Islamabad used nuclear weapons first.

This tough talk seemed all the more ominous in the light of India's decision to conduct military exercises close to the border with Pakistan. The decision raised alarms in the U.S. which hinted that such a move could be dangerous because it might create circumstances that could trigger an accidental war.

Meanwhile, India's hawkish home minister, L.K. Advani, blew hot and cold in Washington, where he engaged in talks with a number of top U.S. officials, including President George Bush. Advani outlined a series of tough measures that Pakistan must take to satisfy India. He also issued a statement claiming that the U.S. president fully endorsed India's point of view on the current standoff, a line that was not echoed by the U.S. spokesman in describing the outcome of the talks.

Significantly, the U.S. stance on Pakistan seemed to be notably softer than in recent days. After the Bush-Advani meeting, a White House spokesman came out with a relatively benign statement, calling for both parties to recognize the importance of fighting terrorism. He added: "India and Pakistan have a mutual enemy in terrorism, not each other."

India is obviously pursuing a strategy designed to keep the Pakistanis guessing and exerting the maximum amount of pressure on Islamabad. However, it is now clear that the U.S. is beginning to realize the dangers inherent in putting too many unrealistic demands on Musharraf, which could well push him to the wall. While the U.S. may not want to alienate a potentially important ally like India, it must also be aware that exerting too much pressure on Pakistan, a close ally in the anti-terror coalition, may prove disastrously counter-productive in the long run.

--Nation

January 13, 2002

Musharraf in major policy u-turn

PAKISTAN--Gen. Pervez Musharraf outlined the contours of the most significant policy U-turn in Pakistan since 1977, an about-face that has the potential to be positive for this South Asian country and its people.

In 1977, after Gen. Zia ul Haq's military coup, an attempt was made to reshape Pakistan in an ideological image compatible with the then military regime's domestic and foreign policy priorities.

Zia embarked on a cosmetic "Islamisation." This was motivated by domestic factors (to counter Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, father of former premier Benazir whom it had ousted in the July coup and cashing in on the Islamic opposition to Bhutto) and international aspects, given the joint "jihad" of Pakistan and the United States beginning in 1979, the same year that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged.

Ironically, 25 years later, that edifice erected by one military regime is being brought down, brick-by-brick, policy-by-policy, by its successor military regime. The vision of a progressive and pluralistic Pakistan is being reinstated as the ideological roadmap for the twenty-first century. This was the vision of Pakistan's founder, Muhammed Ali Jinnah. ...

In his 25 months in office, Musharraf has combined flexibility with the ability to make difficult decisions. The general played peacemaker at Agra last year, much to the chagrin of the Indian establishment.

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