India and Pakistan: Clouds of War

Indian soldier at Kashmir
On edge: An Indian soldier in Kashmir, May 21, 2002 (Photo: AFP).

Karachi, The News (left-wing), May 22, 2002: So long as Indian nuclear-tipped missiles are aimed at any Pakistani city, no Pakistani government, especially of generals, can trust the intentions of New Delhi. Similarly, so long as the Pakistani Ghauris and Shaheens with their nuclear payloads are aimed at (only) Indian cities, what Indian government could remain at rest and trust Pakistan's peaceful intent? The simple fact… is that [these weapons] are inherently destabilizing. With a three-minute warning time, no détente can work between Pakistan and India. Both will have to remain on hair-trigger alert every single moment of their lives—a destabilizing factor in itself. These weapons simply must not be.
— M.B.Naqvi

New Delhi, The Financial Express (business), May 30, 2002: Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf missed an opportunity to de-escalate tension on the border when, instead of addressing the core issue of cross-border terrorism, he chose to speak to his own jihadi constituency. Having failed to take any tangible steps to contain terrorism since his much-hyped Jan. 12 speech, he should have known that India was not inclined to take any of his promises at its face value. To make sense to New Delhi, he should have come up with a ground-level plan of action to match his words.

Lahore, The Friday Times, May 31-June 6, 2002: When Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a swift about-face on [Pakistan’s] 20-year-old Afghan policy last September, he justified it on the basis of a “pragmatic” assessment of “changed realities on the ground” (an American ultimatum). However, despite well-meaning domestic views to the contrary, he refused to acknowledge the uncomfortable organic links between the jihad in Kashmir against India and the jihad of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban against the United States and the West. Indeed, he was adamant that the Pakistani army’s Kashmir policy vis-à-vis India would not be adversely affected, perhaps even going so far as to imagine that he might be able to raise the ante with India because the United States would be constrained not to jeopardize its alliance with Pakistan in pursuit of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Now we know that assumption and the policy that flowed from it… were wrong.

New Delhi, Outlook (independent weekly newsmagazine), May 28, 2002: To expect Musharraf to become a repentant sinner, give up the use of terrorism and destroy his own creations would be to live in a dangerous world of illusions. Till Sept. 11, 2001, Musharraf used to project in public the capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban as his and the Pakistani Army's greatest success story since their 1971 defeat at the hands of the Indian Army.

He and his officers were hoping and continue to hope, despite the defeat of the Taliban by the international coalition in Afghanistan, that this "success story" could be repeated in India with the help of these Pakistani Punjabi Talibans. He has been able to persist with his perfidious actions because he thinks that the United States, the United Kingdom, and other Western countries would not pressure him beyond a point to meet India's concerns. Unfortunately, he has been proved right, until now, in his assessment of Western ambivalence.

Karachi, Daily Jang (pro-government), May 22, 2002: War is the path to destruction. Sagacity demands the exercise of will and reason in finding a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue. The three parties—Pakistan, India, and the people of Kashmir—must sit down and work for permanent peaceful resolution of this bleeding issue. We have Russia and China as an example. The leaders of the Russian empire [i.e., the USSR], with wisdom to match their power, disintegrated the vast USSR, creating many newly independent states—all with good relations with Russia. China has acquired Hong Kong and Macao without shedding any blood. A solution to the conflict in Kashmir also requires such a rational solution, predicated on people’s desire to live in peace and equality, for the betterment of the region and the world.

New Delhi, Hindustan Times (centrist), May 30, 2002: In the absence of clinching evidence, one must rationally exercise one’s political judgment and assess whether the Musharraf regime could have risked—despite its worst intentions—engineering terrorist attacks at this point of time, just when [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia] Christina Rocca was visiting the region.

The frank answer must be, highly unlikely — not because Islamabad has suddenly turned noble and benign, but because, after Sept. 11, it operates under new constraints. When Musharraf decided to throw his lot with Washington, he narrowed his own freedom of action. He was compelled to act against jihadi “freedom-fighters.” With American troops present in Pakistan, and participating in operations to mop up Al-Qaeda-Taliban members on its soil, it would have been near-suicidal for Musharraf to order the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence to unleash terror in India.
—Praful Bidwai

Quetta, The Balochistan Post (right-wing), May 30, 2002: We are at war. India has finally imposed another war on Pakistan. Although its leaders claim that they only want a limited war in Kashmir to punish Pakistan for what they call “infiltrating terrorists” into occupied Kashmir, Pakistan has warned that should there be any aggression, the war will not remain confined to Kashmir or any other specific sector.

Chennai, Frontline (centrist bi-weekly newsmagazine), May 25-June 7, 2002: The Musharraf government is confronted with "double trouble" on account of the developments in Afghanistan. As the U.S.-led coalition forces ferret Al-Qaeda and the Taliban cadre out of the caves and their other hideouts, the porous Pakistan border provides them an escape route. Recent reports suggest heightened infiltration to Pakistan from the Afghanistan side.

In other words, the United States’ war against terrorism is slowly but steadily shifting to Pakistan. As suspicion of such infiltration grows, the Musharraf government is coming under tremendous pressure from the United States not only to step up the vigil along the Afghan border but also to provide access to the coalition forces to extend their operations to cover the hypersensitive tribal areas on the Pakistani side.

Rawalpindi, Nawa-I-Waqt (conservative), May 25, 2002: If the war looming in South Asia breaks out, Pakistan will have to fight not only India, but also a well-planned alliance. If war breaks out, it will be completely different from the previous three wars between Pakistan and India. It will be a war between Pakistan and an alliance. The alliance includes India, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, and some of our pseudo-friends. We should prepare ourselves fully to face the vast damage and destruction this probable war may bring in is wake.
—Israr Ahmad Kisana

New Delhi, India Express (liberal), May 27, 2002: Is there going to be a war? Certainly, the [Indian] media message pointed to full-scale engagement. Have the debate and the rhetoric been deliberately bellicose in an aggressive media campaign seeking to raise the temperature and increase pressure on all sides? Are we really marching to war?

Certainly, our lips are walking-talking. [India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari] Vajpayee may have spoken for and against war during his [Jammu and Kashmir] visit, but other politicians… utter war cries each time they face the TV camera.
—Shailaja Bajpai

Karachi, Dawn (centrist), May 30, 2002: Indian coercion won’t work. Even as India stepped up its warmongering tactics by increasing provocations along the border with Pakistan, regional and global developments have made the coercive approach look irrelevant. India has carried out missile tests several times since December 2001, when it first adopted its coercive strategy. India highlighted advances in missile technology to give greater credibility to its arm-twisting approach. Pakistan has exercised its right to carry out missile tests of its own, to demonstrate its capability to counter the Indian pressure. Though the Indian spokesperson claimed that India was not impressed, the body language of Indian leaders told a different story.