THE Clinton Administration is apprehensive that home minister L.K. Advani's "hot pursuit" policy could spark off a full-scale war. Says one official: "It would be very wrong-headed of India to commit itself to such a pro-active policy, especially if it means crossing the border into Pakistan and attacking what they claim are militant camps. We cannot condemn this strongly enough. This would be seriously upping the ante. It would be taking the conflict to a whole new level, and could lead to the kind of confrontation that both sides should avoid at all costs."
Analyst Stephen Rosenfeld believes that India's pro-active policy would push the region into a nuclear war. "India's hot pursuit of guerrillas it claimed Pakistan had infiltrated into Kashmir is a common scenario for how a war between the two might begin," he warns. "But it would not be your routine poor country clash. The nuclear potential could make it something of a kind not seen since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962."
Rosenfeld criticises "some of India's American friends" who have defended India in US newspapers. He says "the latest evidence of Indian intent on Kashmir lies not in the movement of troops but in public words." He quotes the BJP manifesto which affirms 'India's sovereignty over the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, including the areas under foreign occupation' and warns Clinton to carefully heed these signs.
India is not behaving in a manner that befits a country with "a great history and tradition," says a White House source. Any "hard-line pro-active policy on Kashmir would be foolish beyond words," declares the source, adding that India should refrain from "any effort to reclaim Pakistan-held Kashmir by force. The international community would not easily overlook such an act of aggression," he feels.
Other South Asian experts say the Clinton Administration is now taking the BJP's remarks—especially those on Kashmir—much more seriously than it ever did. "The State Department is reading and re-reading the BJP's election platform and other public statements," says a Congressional aide. Because they did not take the BJP's statements on the nuclear testing at face value, they were "shocked by the tests. They will now take care to study in great detail what the BJP says and to challenge statements that in the past they might have dismissed as rhetoric." The aide was explaining why Advani's remarks, which might have been ignored in the past, caused such a furore.
Besides condemnation, what would it mean in concrete terms? Would India be treated as a pariah or rogue state along the lines of Iraq, Iran or Libya with full-scale trade embargoes? "It could happen," says the aide.