Making A Difference

The American Line Of Control

Since American and Indian interests don't converge, what are India's options?. Perhaps the "Clinton option" that relied on his uncanny sense of what people wanted on a particular day?

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The American Line Of Control
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The Indian Prime Minister has spoken. On May 22, speaking with a grim determination, and displaying nohesitation in words as is his customary style, he told Indian troops that his presence at a forward militarybase in northwest Kashmir was a signal to everyone that India is about to embark on a new campaign and thetime has come for a decisive battle .

Is India readying for a war with Pakistan? That would appear to be the obvious conclusion from all therhetoric emanating from New Delhi. And yet, many feel that India is simply raising the ante to attractattention of Americans to put pressure on General Musharraf to stop, or markedly reduce, the jehad inKashmir.

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As has happened before, the first Indian reaction is: Do American policy makers know what Pakistani(intelligence-military) establishment is up to? And if they do, then why don't they do something about it?

For the record, yes, Americans know that the number of terrorist training camps in Pakistan-occupiedKashmir (POK), and the rate of infiltration of Pakistan based terrorists into India, have gone up sinceearlier curtailment ordered by Pakistan during the initial "with us or against us" campaign. In fact, theword on the "American street" is that Gen. Musharraf has facilitated the re-establishment of at least 50 jehaditerrorist camps in POK since March this year. Which leads to the next logical question: Is America going to doanything about it?

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My answer is very simple. America will do anything and everything in the Indian subcontinent so long as itdoes not undermine Gen. Musharraf’s position to rule Pakistan. Or to put it bluntly, if India forces Americato choose between Musharraf and Indian interests it will forgo the latter, albeit reluctantly.

Sounds incredible? Here is why.

The American position on the war against terrorism has taken a detour from the initial commitment thatPresident George W. Bush made immediately following 9/11 tragedy. Like any other well meaning and principledstand, Americans started with a deep sense of grief and retribution against the guilty. But real-politick hasmoderated American goals.

Judging by the latest U.S. State Department terrorism report, the list of terrorist nations is mostlyunchanged from previous years, even though none of the listed nations in the report have been linked to 9/11attacks. In fact, the two nations that had past links with the al-Qaeda, and in many ways continue tomaintain such connections within some sections of their official establishments, are Saudi Arabia andPakistan. Neither of these two countries is on the list of U.S. terrorist nations.

On the contrary, both of these countries are frequently mentioned as "allies against terrorism". Asmuch as Indians are incensed with American attitude towards Pakistan, the Israelis went a step further anddistributed irrefutable proof in the American media about Saudi role in promoting terrorism. But the endresult was the same as the American administration remained unmoved.

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American position, as expected, is driven by their national interest. But I am afraid in the case of SaudiArabia and Pakistan there is more than the national interest at play. There are "Presidential interests".In the case of Saudis, the relationship between the President and some of his close associates with the MiddleEast oil nations is an old one. In the case of Pakistan, it is simply a matter of "election politics" inthe U.S.

President George W. Bush does not wish to take any chances with his re-election. He only has to rememberwhat happened to a former President after the euphoria and high public ratings following the Gulf War. Oncereal-politick entered into the war against terrorism, and the definition of terrorism was politicized toselect and choose targets, the American campaign against terrorism lost its focus.

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There is a saying that the devil is in the details. In the business world, professionals know that anyassignment has two components - the first (easier) 80% component takes 20% of the time and the last (harder)20% component takes 80% of the time. As the war against al-Qaeda enters the grinding phase, the successso far has been rather limited. Therefore it is no surprise that the Bush administration has shifted its focuselsewhere to retain favorable perceptions by the public. More public attention is being paid now by the Bushadministration in developing the next terrorist target rather than in completing the job at hand. Ofcourse, it would be different had the war against al-Qaeda been more successful.

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There is a real possibility that as we approach the next Presidential election in the U.S., the situationwill not be greatly different from today. The American military can not afford to leave theAfghanistan-Pakistan theatre without tangible success, and no such success looms over the horizon. At the timeof the next Presidential election, Mr. Bush will re-emphasize the ongoing war against al-Qaeda and Taliban,and assure the American people that America will not withdraw from that region until full success is achieved.

So the last thing that President Bush or his advisors need today is uncertainty on the ground inAfghanistan and Pakistan that will in any way jeopardize the American presence there. While Afghanistan is anon-issue, in the case of Pakistan it is a different matter. With a disciplined military and a nucleararsenal, Americans will not be able to stay in Pakistan without the acquiescence of Pakistani generals.Whether India likes it or not, Musharraf holds the key (may be not the only key, but an important one) thatwill affect President Bush’s re-election chances. Everything else is secondary.

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Given the American compulsions, what can India gain by engaging in a war? If it is a "war to the finish",it may very well literally end that way for the two countries. If it is a "limited war", then itseffectiveness will be limited too. But what, perhaps, Indians may not aware of is that if the Indian armycrosses the line of control (LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir, it will have done Gen. Musharraf a favor and grantedhim his wish that he was unable to achieve during his Kargil and Agra misadventures. India would haveunilaterally destroyed the sanctity of the LOC as the line of regional stability in Kashmir. This action willsurely trigger big power intervention (through the United Nations) in Kashmir, and will have greaterramifications for India than currently foreseen by Indian security planners.

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The sanctity of LOC is a major issue for Pakistan. They feel it has undercut their efforts in "restoring"Kashmir to Pakistan, and I have heard arguments that after the 1971 war, Pakistan did in fact accept the faitaccompli in Jammu and Kashmir. At a recent (April 6, 2002) symposium on Kashmir in Washington DC, one ofthe Kashmiri Muslims challenged my argument that insurgency in Kashmir began in 1985, stating that insurgencywas fueled by the rigged State general elections of 1987.

To my surprise, my argument was supported by the next speaker, Brig. (retd.) Feroze Khan of Pakistan, whosaid that it was the occupation of the Siachen Glacier by the Indian military in 1983-1984 that "broughtKashmir back on the radar screen in Pakistan". He said that the Pakistani military establishment in 1984concluded that India had undercut the Shimla Agreement and, from their perspective, all options lay open forPakistan as to how to avenge the Siachen defeat. The rest, as they say, is history.

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The stepped up mix of Indian rhetoric and military activism from Vajapayee and Advani these days remindsone a lot of "forward basing" engaged by Nehru and Menon during 1962. While today India is clearly amilitary power of reckoning, the chances for miscalculation are no different today then 40 years back. India,it would seem, has trapped itself in pursuing the military option, whether or not it really intended to.

How does India proceed from here? I would like to suggest the "Clinton option" that relied on hisuncanny sense of what people wanted on a particular day, as his actions were always dictated by the results ofdaily polls. Such an action consists of three parts:

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  • First, create a debate in the country whether Indians can afford an economic upheaval, and even moreimportantly, whether people at large have the stomach for massive deaths and destruction that will surelyhappen in a major war.

  • Second, put all possible political sanctions against Pakistan in one package and impose these as a unit asagainst dribbling these out over time.

  • Third, send a few cruise missiles to selected jehadi training camps in POK, ensuring that the campsare removed from populated areas.

  • Finally, claim victory and pull the military away from the borders.

I think this is the best scenario under the circumstances. Besides, the Indian general elections are stillsome years away and Indian public will have other issues to contend with in the meantime.

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India has lived with insurgency and terrorism for decades, and I recall when Kashmiri Pandits were killedand then driven out of Kashmir by Mujahideen in 1989-1990, nobody in India batted an eye. As manyIndians told Americans after the 9/11 attack, "As you sow, so shall you reap".

Unfortunately, it is not the other shoe but another set of feet this time.

(The author, Vijay K. Sazawal, Ph.D., is National President, Indo-American Kashmir Forum (IAKF)Washington, DC, USA)

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