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Editorial ()
August 8, 1998

Author: Editorial
publication: The Telegraph
Date: August 8, 1998

However many assurances the Indian government has given about the
stability of south Asia following the nuclear tests at Pokhran
and Chaghai, it would be difficult for an outside observer to not
come to the opposite conclusion. Great expectations were raised
about the meeting between Messrs Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz
Sharif in Colombo. But it ended in acrimony. The fallout
continues with a murderous barrage of shells fired by Pakistan
across the border into India. Added to this have been massacres
of civilians in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. There is little
domestically that evokes confidence. Islamabad's economy
continues to hang by its fingertips. New Delhi's ruling
coalition emerges from each week looking ever more frayed and
frail. While some in the subcontinent scan the horizon for war
clouds, most Indians and Pakistanis recognise this to be business
as .usual - just nastier than usual. The problem is that the
outside world's perception of south Asia is what the present war
of speeches and skirmishes is really about. Unfortunately, New
Delhi seems to have decided that when it comes to the worlds
hearts and minds the best policy is a splendid indifference.

The problem with this policy is that it only encourages Pakistan
to provoke. The nuclear tests aroused international fears of
atomic adventurism in south Asia and led 'to attempts to pressure
the two countries to find a Kashmir solution. After many
fruitless years, Pakistan saw the door to internationalizing the
Kashmir dispute open just a crack. Since then, its calculation is
'simple. Global interest in Kashmir is directly proportional to
the amount of friction in south Asia. Therefore, Islamabad's
policy should be to increase such friction. So Mr Sharif went
through the motions of talking, With Mr Vajpayee at the South
Asian Association of Regional Cooperation summit while ensuring
the negotiations collapsed in a way as to make it seem Indian
Intransigence was equally to blame for their failure. An
unimaginative Indian delegation emerged looking only slightly
less obsessed" - as they described the Pakistani stance - about
Kashmir than Islamabad. Mr Sharif also blindsided them with a
peace and security initiative designed to nothing but put India
in a bad light. Pakistan then turned on fireworks. It ratcheted
up its usual artillery bombardment - and accused India of
shelling. It had militants carry out massacres and ambushes in
Kashmir. Its motive was clear: arouse further international
concern that south Asia was careering down the path to nuclear
war. Given this, it is ironic that one reason Pakistan is willing
to takes such dangerous steps is its belief full blown war is
impossible after the nuclear tests. Being nuclear weapon states
means never going to war against each other.

There is still a chance of India and Pakistan becoming more
constructive about their relations in the near future. But this
will be impossible if Islamabad believes it has more to gain by
exciting international opinion by beating wardrums near the
border. Persuading Islamabad that this is a deadend policy should
be India's primary goal. This means more than firing shells in
the other direction. It means explaining to the world that if
south Asia looks set to burn, it is because Pakistan is being
deliberately inflammatory. It is likely many countries already
realize this: Islamabad has been too blatant for anyone to take
its calls for intervention in Kashmir seriously. However,
India's strange passivity on both the security and diplomatic
fronts only encourages Pakistan to live dangerously It makes
Indians believe New Delhi's talk of being "proactive" is a
theoretical construct - especially if they have the misfortune of
living near the line of actual control. It emboldens militant
voices in Pakistan to the view India can be prodded and poked
without fear. Finally, it leads the world to believe that India
is still incapable of even recognizing, let alone defending, its
interests in the international arena.

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