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India's dilemma in coping with terrorism

India's dilemma in coping with terrorism

Author: J.N. Dixit
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: November 10, 2001

India's attention is so focussed on the campaign led by the U.S. against Afghanistan that it seems unaware of the consequences of the drive in terms of its own struggle against terrorism, of which it has been a vhttp://features.samachar.com/101101-fpj.htmlictim.

India, in its initial reaction to the U.S terror attacks, expressed full and unreserved support to Washington in its campaign against terror. In retrospect, this seems to have been predicated on the assumption that the campaign would automatically cover within its ambit terrorism perpetrated against India by Pakistan-sponsored Islamic mercenaries.

This was an optimistic and unrealistic predication. There were speedy signals within a week after the attacks in New York and Washington that Pakistan was going to be the main operational and logistical instrumentality in the U.S. war.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's first message of support to the U.S. clearly stipulated two preconditions for Pakistan's joining the counter-terrorist coalition. First, India and Israel should be kept out of the coalition and India should not have any say in the future political dispensation in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The second pecondition was that the U.S. should not include the violence in Jammu and Kashmir in its anti-terror campaign in line with Pakistan's contention that the violence in Kashmir is an indigenous freedom struggle to which Pakistan only extends political, moral and diplomatic support - an unvarnished lie the Americans are fully aware of.

Though the U.S. has not made any policy pronouncements on these two Pakistani preconditions, they seem to have been accepted de facto for the present. One has to relate policy pronouncements with ground realities India has had to face since September 11.

The U.S. gave specific advice to India not to take any action against Pakistan in response to the violence in Jammu and Kashmir in the first 10 days after the terror attacks in the U.S. While the U.S. has condemned the Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide attack on the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly October 1, it has not acknowledged Jaish to be a group sponsored by Pakistan and based there.

Responding to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's complaint India's patience was running out, U.S. President George W. Bush advised restraint and caution in terse language, asking both India and Pakistan to "stand down."

Perhaps taking longer strategic and political interest into account, India has abided by Bush's advice. But Pakistan has not. The bomb attack on the assembly was preceded by a series of terror attacks on civilians and security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan continues its terror campaign in India. The attack on the Awantipore air force base near Srinagar was the latest incident.

Earlier, when Indian armed forces undertook some operations to thwart an attempted large-scale infiltration of mercenaries, the U.S. admonished New Delhi not to upset the apple cart of Musharraf's support to the U.S. campaign.

Musharraf, however, seems to be confident that so long as he gives useful support to the U.S., he would be immune from any U.S. pressures to restrain himself against India.

His warning to India in an interview with Pakistan Television that it would be paid back in the same coin for any "adventurism" across the Line of Control (LoC) should be seen in this context.

While making these bellicose statements he indulged in the stratagem of wanting to resume dialogue with Vajpayee, to tell the U.S. and other powers that Pakistan is still willing to have a dialogue.

The factual implications of Musharraf's evolving India policy post-September 11 are:

a.. Pakistan will continue to sponsor terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

b.. Musharraf seems to be sanguine that the U.S. will not take any action against Pakistan in this respect.

c.. While repeatedly referring to the safety of his strategic assets, namely, his nuclear weapons and missile capacities and then going on to warn India that he will teach India a lesson, he is sending a signal that he will not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction against India if New Delhi takes any effective action against terrorist violence organised by his government. A parallel motive is to convey the impression to the U.S. and other major powers that if India is not kept under restraint, there are possibilities of a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan and, therefore, these powers should actively intervene to resolve the Kashmir issue within the framework of the Pakistani demand.

Washington's approach would be to generate pressure on both India and Pakistan to resume dialogue with greater pressure on India not to react operationally against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Musharraf, on his part, is certain to demand that the U.S. not include Pakistani terrorist activities in the ambit of its general campaign against international terrorism.

India should expect a continuation of terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly during the period when the U.S. is engaged against Afghanistan and some other countries because of Pakistan's confidence that Washington would generate effective pressure on India not to act against Islamabad while the U.S. campaign is in progress.

Another dilemma which India faces and will continue to face is the groundswell of public opinion within the country in support of India taking decisive punitive action against Pakistani terror, particularly large-scale and blatant terrorist violence sponsored by Pakistan-based terrorist mercenary groups.

This view is shared by segments of the Indian political and security establishment. It must also be clearly acknowledged by the government and people of India that there is little likelihood of the U.S. politically or operationally supporting any anti-terrorist campaign undertaken by India against Pakistan.

This is a campaign, which we will have to undertake on our own, wherever and whenever it becomes necessary.

India has been fighting terrorism so far within its own territorial limits. The question is can it or should it take the battle across the LoC to strike at the roots of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. If it undertakes such a step,it would have to undertake it alone.

The best scenario one can visualise is the international community not taking action to stop it as far as these operations do not deteriorate into a nuclear confrontation with Pakistan.

The four considerations that should influence India's decision in this regard are:

First, we must be prepared for Pakistani threats of nuclear and missile retaliation against any punitive action by India. Second, any effective action by India should be in response to a manifestly serious terrorist incident that could justify such action in the eyes of the international community.

Third, we must carefully examine whether we have the operational capacity to undertake such action at least for proportionate retaliation because there is no guarantee that Pakistan will reconcile itself to the concept of proportionate retaliation or it would want to expand the conflict. Fourth, do we have the political will to undertake such punitive action and, more importantly, the mind-set to cope with the military consequences of such an initiative?

It is obvious any decision that we take in these matters would require deep thought and careful political and strategic calculations. The more important point is that patience and restraint beyond a certain threshold becomes appeasement, which may lead to long-term threats to India's security and territorial integrity.

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