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You've Got (Black) Mail!

Anthony J. Aschettino

For some very obvious reasons, most of the world has recently cast a wary eye towards the continuing escalation of rhetoric and military buildup on the LOC in Kashmir between long-time adversaries Pakistan and India. If a war here were to develop it could very well lead to a nuclear conflict, only the second in the history of the world. The United States in particular has been put into a very precarious position because it has interests in not alienating either side due to her ongoing war against terror. Since 11th September, the USA has obviously been courting Pakistani assistance in dealing with the former Afghan regime of the Taliban.

Meanwhile, India represents the worlds "largest democracy" and is, according to her supporters, a critical player in the effort to stamp out international terrorism since she deals with it in Kashmir on a regular basis.

Perhaps this is why the United States has recently sent Secretary of State Powell into the region to try and hammer out some kind of interim agreement: nothing that will solve any of the critical issues, but that would at least avoid a nuclear confrontation between the two sides. As long as things remain unfinished in Afghanistan, the United States needs Pakistan to remain a key ally. India, however, represents for the business-minded in America the ultimate target: her billion people will trump any arguments in favour of selecting Pakistan as the long-term ally against India. Indeed many argue, and perhaps correctly, that Pakistan will once again simply be the proverbial condom America uses to penetrate Afghanistan, only to be flushed down the toilet once this phase of "Enduring Freedom" is finished.

The real question at hand, meanwhile, is much simpler than first imagined: where does the buck stop? When will India be satisfied with Pakistani steps to stem "cross-border terrorism"? How far must Pakistan go to prove to her neighbor that she is more than willing to live in peace? Should Pakistan withdraw the army from Azad Kashmir? Should she turn over her nuclear weapons to India, so that the latter is no longer concerned that they would be used in aggression? Perhaps these questions seem trivial... they most certainly are not.

Pakistan under President Musharraf has taken steps that even two years ago would have been seen as ludicrous. All major jehadi groups have been banned. Madrasas have been put firmly under the control of the government. Joint electorates have been announced. Hundreds, mounting to thousands, of Pakistanis have been imprisoned due to their activism on behalf of radical groups. Yet to India this is not enough. What then, Mr. Vajpayee, is enough? When will India be satisfied with Pakistan's actions?

In international politics, there is often something called "reciprocation". Yet India never seems to be satisfied with what Pakistan does. Does India want to provoke war? Perhaps, since recent documents have shown that India planned to attack Pakistan on the 10th of January this year in spite of the ongoing efforts of Pakistan to relieve the crisis. Pakistan, as well as the international community, has a right to demand India tell what she desires and make clear what she wants in order to achieve peace. Otherwise, she will not be the first country who uses a swastika and demands appeasement.

Key to everything here is the refusal of India to deal with the Kashmir issue for what it is: the ultimate stumbling block in the path of peace negotiations. Ever since she seized control of part of it in spite of the wishes of its people, India has constantly refused to deal with this issue both in bi-lateral negotiations and in the international community. Her brutal occupation of the region has produced more casualties in ten years than the Israeli occupation of Palestine has in thirty. The presence of over 750,000 military and paramilitary personnel in the region presents the largest troop gathering of any army of any country anywhere in the world at a time in a non-friendly environment. Before the recent "elections" in occupied Kashmir all participants were required, as a pre-requisite to running, to sign a paper attesting that "Kashmir is an indisputable part of India". What kind of elections are these? This kind of electorate can only be likened to the kind of voting that goes on in fascist societies.

Even more troubling for America is the fact (well suppressed by pro-Indian supporters) that India has indeed embarked on technology that will enable her to develop Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICMB's) with a range to hit the United States. Why? If her enemies are only in Pakistan and China (let us be frank, India will never be happy with China as a powerful competitor in the region), why need missiles that have a range outside of, say, three thousand miles? The reason is, of course, to one day be able to tell the United States that she can go to hell and back it up with thousands of missiles. The possibilities of a new cold war brought about by economic competition and India's burgeoning economy is a real and present danger to both the United States and Pakistan. And as far as American foreign policy goes, while China can never be contained by India alone, India most certainly can be kept in check by a combination Pakistan and China.

All in all, the path that India is pursuing right now can be spelled out simply: it is blackmail. Although the steps President Musharraf is taking are noble and to be commended, at some point he needs to demand of India reciprocal steps towards peace. More than that, Pakistan needs to work with Chinese military forces to present India with a very delicate situation: although there are many strategists who claim that India will defeat Pakistan in a conventional war, Chinese intervention will cut off Indian forces in Kashmir and spell doom to any foolish Indian adventure. China is growing increasingly impatient with India, especially as the latter is sending high-level air-force advisors to Taiwan. It is time, President Musharraf, to make India put up or shut up.

[The author, Anthony J. Aschettino, is a freelance journalist and a well known expert and commentator on South Asia. He has extensive field work experience in various parts of the world, including the MiddleEast. He is currently on travel in Eygpt.]


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