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India waits, but still war-ready

India details possible attack plan, as militant incursions continue in Kashmir.

By Scott Baldauf, V.K. Shashikumar / June 14, 2002



NEW DELHI, SRINAGAR, AND ON THE LINE OF CONTROL IN INDIAN KASHMIR

In stark contrast to a week ago, when India and Pakistan seemed perched at the brink of nuclear war, today the nations of the subcontinent are finally talking about talking.

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But as India takes incremental steps to normalize relations with Pakistan, such as recalling naval ships and nominating a diplomat to re-establish diplomatic ties with Islamabad, it is still primed for war.

"We will do whatever the government asks us to do. Our war strategy will depend on our circumstances.... Our principle targets would be terrorist-training areas and camps [in Pakistan- occupied Kashmir]," says Lt. Gen. V.G. Patankar, an Indian Army commander in Kashmir.

General Patankar estimates that 3,000 Islamic militants are now waiting to slip across the border.

The overall level of hostilities

are much reduced, but neither India nor Pakistan is contemplating a major pullback of the nearly 1 million troops now posted along both sides of the 1,800-mile long Indo-Pakistani border and in particular the 450-mile cease-fire line known as the Line of Control (LOC).

Indian analysts and military sources warn that the Indo-Pakistani crisis over Kashmir is far from over, and even US officials admit that until both nations pull back their troops, the danger of a massive brutal conventional war remains.

"India has to be skeptical about the US mission and the possible intentions of Gen. Pervez Musharraf," says J.N. Dixit, former ambassador to Pakistan in 1988 to 1991, and former Indian foreign secretary from 1991 to 1994. "And we will remain skeptical until we see appropriate actions are taken on the ground."

General Patankar, who commands one of the most sensitive sectors in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, says waiting is nothing new for the India. He says that in 1971, the Indian Army waited for months to launch military action against Pakistan.

Patankar admitted for the first time that an Indian military action would focus on attacking militant infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Patankar says the Indian Military Intelligence and the G Branch (intelligence wing of the paramilitary Border Security Force) have reported that there has been a slight reduction, but no dramatic drop, in the infiltration of militants from Pakistan since May 27. "Nothing has changed along the Line of Control," says Patankar.

While militant groups based in Pakistan vowed to continue their guerrilla insurgency in Kashmir, and India's Border Security Force reported that some 10 infiltrations occurred last week, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the Pakistani leader, General Musharraf, "has made a very firm commitment to everything he can do to limit infiltration across the Line of Control permanently."

Perhaps more troubling are reports that Al Qaeda militants may have relocated from the Afghan border area to the Pakistani side of the Line of Control.

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