India set to launch 'small war'
US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will go to Asia next week to try to ease tensions between India and Pakistan.
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It may be working. Numerous diplomats have visited the region since January, including US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca. This week, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw arrived with a proposal to beef up the 35-member UN monitoring force.Skip to next paragraph
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According to Pakistan's UN ambassador Munir Akram, Mr. Straw said that a helicopter-borne force of 300 could "effectively monitor [the Line of Control and verify] whether the Indian charges are right or not." Next week, Richard Armitage, a deputy Secretary of State, will also arrive in Islamabad to impress on Mr. Musharraf America's concerns in the region.
The leverage of the Western powers is significant. The US could withdraw further economic support, thus sending Pakistan's rebounding economy back into a tailspin. In addition, the US could put Pakistan back on its watch list of terrorist countries, alongside North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. But this lever works both ways. The US depends on Pakistan to rein in Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives hiding in Pakistan; any loss of Pakistani support undermines the US "war on terrorism."
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, it's clear that Indian officials are offering the Pakistani state no easy way out of the current imbroglio. Those close to the prime minister and to External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh say that India intends to keep up the pressure on Pakistan until Musharraf follows through on promises made in a Jan. 12 speech to "break from the jihadi mindset" and to shut down terrorist groups based on Pakistani soil.
"It was the international powers led by the US that said we are in a global fight against terrorism, and the US would shoulder the responsibility for Pakistani misbehavior," says K.K. Nayyar, a retired rear admiral and behind-the-scenes participant in Indo-Pakistani negotiations over Kashmir. "But you see the result. There is an escalation by the militants."
But India's tough talk of war may create an environment into which the US and other Western nations may feel compelled to intervene and to seek lasting solutions to the Kashmir conflict.
"This is the ultimate nightmare of India, to have the US meddling in this issue," says Sumit Ganguly, a political scientist at University of Texas in Austin, and author of a book on Indo-Pakistani wars called "Unending Conflict." "There is a deep reservoir of suspicion among Indian intellectuals toward the US, because of its past alliance with Pakistan during the cold war."
Yet in the present environment, India may feel the need to bloody Pakistan's nose.
"The question is, how do you get out of the present bind?" says Dr. Ganguly, the UT professor. "The Indians cannot afford to back down without looking silly to the Pakistanis."
Admiral Nayyar agrees. "Conventional war is inevitable, and the later it takes place, the fiercer will be the campaign and the higher the death toll."
Still, some analysts say that the tough talk by India and Pakistan are just rhetoric, aimed at domestic hard-liners in both countries.
"Frankly, I don't think there's going to be war and there's not going to be peace," says Mr. Cohen. "This reminds me of sumo wrestling. There's a lot of posturing between two giants, a lot of throwing of salt, but neither one wants to crash against the other."