When hostilities nearly erupted between nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan last June, American diplomats defused the confrontation by extracting a promise from Pakistan to clamp down on terrorism in Kashmir. But India says that promise has gone unfulfilled. As tensions mount again between the two countries, India wants Washington to lean harder on Pakistan.
India has grown increasingly disillusioned with what it sees as America's double standard in the war on terrorism. Officials here charge that Pakistan - American's ally in the war on terror - is backing Islamic militants in Kashmir and signing weapons deals with North Korea.
"The Indians are getting increasingly upset, in fact, angry about these American double standards," says Brahma Chellaney of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.
In announcing his early resignation last week, India's ambassador to the US, Robert Blackwill, noted that the war on terror would not be won until "terrorism against India ends permanently. There can be no other legitimate stance by the [US]."
Last year, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf initially responded to American pressure by banning five key militant groups and arresting some of their leaders. But many outlawed groups are back in business with new names, offices, and websites. And cross-border violence in Kashmir, which even India admitted tailed off slightly for a few months, is on the uptick again, a fact senior US officials now acknowledge.
"The promises the US made last year have not been fulfilled," Mr. Chellaney says. "They assured the Indian leaders that terrorism would end permanently and ver-ifiably. But after the military on both sides demobilized, they forgot their promise."
The latest round of tensions between India and Pakistan was sparked by a particularly gruesome attack in Kashmir several weeks ago in which militants gunned down 24 Hindu Brahmins. Indian officials wasted no time blaming Pakistan.
Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha said India reserved the right to take unilateral military action against Pakistan, the same way the US did in Iraq. "India has a much better case to go for preemptive action against Pakistan than the US has in Iraq," he told Agence France-Presse.
US officials fired back, saying India's ongoing battle against militants in Kashmir cannot be compared to the threat the US faced in Iraq. Unlike the current Pakistani regime, US officials say, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was in violation of several UN resolutions for 12 years. "Any attempts to draw parallels between the Iraq and Kashmir situations are wrong and are overwhelmed by the differences between them," said State Department spokeswoman Joanne Prokopowicz.
In the end, India toned down its rhetoric and backtracked from the idea of an imminent strike. In recent days, there have been some promising steps toward peace. Both sides have indicated interest in pursuing talks just as a US delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage, prepares to visit the region next week to push for peace.
But unless the US can push Pakistan to stop militants from crossing illicitly into Indian-administered Kashmir, analysts here say, any US-mediated effort will likely fail. "I don't think any major breakthrough is going to happen until Pakistan is persuaded it cannot acquire Kashmir through terrorism," says J.N. Dixit, a former Indian foreign secretary who led talks with Pakistan nine times.
India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir as their own. When the region's hereditary ruler chose to accede to India in 1947, Pakistan cried foul. The two countries have fought three wars to settle that score, leaving India in control of two-thirds of the territory. Militant groups in the region, which India accuses Pakistan of aiding, have waged a 14-year insurgency against Indian rule estimated to have cost from 35,000 to 70,000 civilian lives.
Despite the latest peace overtures, the Indian government remains under considerable domestic pressure to do something, but analysts say the options are limited. For starters, there are military limitations - Pakistan's nuclear weapons are a formidable deterrent and India doesn't have the kind of conventional military advantage over Pakistan that the United States had in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There are diplomatic restraints as well. Despite its exasperation with American policy in the region, India is loath to ruffle the broader economic and military ties the countries share, says Sumit Ganguly, a South Asia specialist at the University of Texas at Austin. Kanti Bajpai, an international relations professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, agrees. "Neither India nor Pakistan wants to get into a tangle ... primarily because Washington wouldn't find it too amusing, and neither Delhi nor Islamabad wants to alienate Washington," Mr. Bajpai says.
But India's tolerance of cross-border terrorism won't last forever, and eventually security concerns at home could override concerns about upsetting foreign governments, warns Jyoti Malhotra, a columnist for Indian Express, a leading Indian newspaper. "If there's another big incident, there will be a lot of pressure within India to do something, and that could be a preemptive strike."
Eventually, Ms. Malhotra says, Indian restraint will depend on significant and permanent reductions in cross-border infiltrations and attacks by militants. But gaining Pakistan's cooperation on Kashmir could be difficult in the near future, especially since the US needs Musharraf for its own war on terror.
Musharraf's help in rounding up top Al Qaeda figures like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the reason the US recently renewed its waiver of sanctions on Pakistan, clearing the way for continued aid, despite disturbing signs that Pakistan has traded weapons technology with North Korea.
It's also the reason US officials cannot afford to press too hard on Pakistan to carry out the promises it made to India last year. "They haven't been able to get Musharraf to deliver, and they can't do much more because of the Osama bin Laden question," Ms. Malhotra says.