West turns up heat on India
Secretary Colin Powell's trip to the region today aims to decode India's hostile signals toward neighboring Pakistan.
South Asia's nuclear powers are not yet backing down.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Despite the arrest of 1,500 Islamic militants in Pakistan yesterday, on the heels of a historic reform-minded speech by Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Indian military continues to mobilize its forces.
The two nations have massed nearly 1 million troops along their border in the largest military buildup in three decades.
As US Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves for Islamabad, Pakistan, and New Delhi today, a number of Indian Army medical units have been given 48 hours to report to frontline positions, military sources say.
Still, India is sending mixed messages about whether its military buildup is largely an elaborate "staged" threat designed to force the US to push Pakistan to crack down on militants crossing into Kashmir - or whether India is actually preparing an attack.
Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes told reporters yesterday that if Pakistan does not stop supporting cross-border
infiltration, "we may be left with no option [but war].... The entire nation is fed up. We have had enough." Mr. Fernandes offered no timetable for when India would determine if the militancy had ended.
One senior Indian official, however, told the Monitor the buildup is "entirely pressure tactics. You take my word, there will be no war."
Indian leaders, for their part, seemed caught off guard by the scope and scale of General Musharraf's speech to his nation Saturday. They are bracing for intense and unwanted international pressure, starting with Secretary Powell, to step down from the buildup that has put South Asia close to war. Of greater concern to Indian leaders is that Western diplomats will start a slow drumbeat for India to take up the dispute of Kashmir, the main trouble spot between the sibling rivals.
British Prime Minster Tony Blair, in a visit to Delhi last week, suggested India and Pakistan hold "sustained, meaningful, and comprehensive" talks on the half-century-old issue. The European Union, which praised Musharraf's crackdown, has also called for the two sides to "move toward renewed dialogue."
India has long held that "no third party" can intervene in its affairs. Yet with Indian Home Minister Lal Advani visiting Washington last week, Fernandes bound for the US, and Powell visiting here this week, such positions seem illusory, analysts say. The US has troops using four bases in Pakistan for its campaign in Afghanistan, and it does not want a conflagration that would endanger it soldiers or dissipate its efforts.
"With Advani's visit and Musharraf's speech, war is averted for the time being," says Satish Kumar, editor of India's National Security Annual Review, "but it is not ruled out in the next two to three months."
So comprehensive has been the armed forces buildup along India's border, military sources say, that fighting units are expected to remain there until late March, regardless of events.
Still, experts say Musharraf's greatly anticipated speech has had a substantial impact. Sounding like a latter-day Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the leader who "secularized" Muslim Turkey, Musharraf called for radical and sweeping modern reforms toward an Islam of "brotherhood and peace." Along with banning militant groups that operate in Kashmir, and detaining radicals, he outlined steps to register and control madrassas, the 10,000 grassroots Islamic schools, some of which have been the breeding ground for what Musharraf termed a "false, negative Islam of hate."