Thursday, May 23, 2002

"America's Other Crisis"...anyone rememver Vajpayee's Lahore bus trip in 1999?

As obvious with recent media reports, it appears as if the two sub-Continental neighbors are preparing for another bout of war. In my estimates, indications are that fighting between India and Pakistan will stay limited, at least until the end of the monsoon season. Indications from the Indian government that war will commence in September could actually be accurate. Of course it appears that tensions are rapidly rising, but for those who watch the region regularly, heavy handed talk has been the rule of the land for some time. I personally am waiting for the Indian side to actually back their talk up with action. The Indian populace is, I think, just getting sick of continued forays across the Line of Control (LOC). In addition to the huge political gains the ruling BJP party could reap from a successful war, a war with Pakistan would also be a great distraction from the current communal tensions in Gujarat . Already with tensions rising the past few days between India and Pakistan, it seems that the situation in Gujarat is slowly subsiding.

Despite all this, India should try and find some sort of political solution to slow their own rhetoric so that India is not forced into war. It seems that maybe Pakistan PM Musharraf is trying to do just that. Today's Financial Times indicates that in an address to Pakistani journalists, Musharraf clearly stated that Pakistan will not tolerate any sort of terrorism to emanate from inside Pakistani territory, or territory in which Pakistan controls. If Musharraf can act on this statement, and offer some sort of branch in terms of some of the twenty fugitives that India seeks, this could be an opening to dialogue and a reduction of tensions. I don't know how politically feesible this will be for him, but I also do not know how politically feesbile a limited conflict, growing to a full-on war with nuclear consequences is either?

On the Indian side, if they even wish to reduce tensions and not go to war, symbolic olive branch choices seem to be limited. From all indications, it seems that the Indians are legitimately preparing for some sort of conflict. The navy has been moved, forces from the Chinese border have been moved, and Vajpayee has begun to motivate Indian forces along the border. While I do believe both countries have rational nuclear doctrines, I think because India's nuclear arsenal is under civilian control and it has overwhelming conventional power with regard to Pakistan, any nuclear weapons use will begin with Pakistan. The danger that exists their is the blurring of civil-military control of the nuclear arsenal, and its irrationality when it comes to India. I hope that if their is a conflict, it remains limited, but at the same time, it would be much safer and productive if calmer minds prevail, and India and Pakistan can resume some meaningful and productive dialogue. This would ideally mean the resumption of the Lahore process, the peace initiative started when "bus diplomacy" took Vajpayee to Lahore. Also the same intitiative that was stopped when Pakistani backed militants (signed of by current Pakistani PM Musharraf) attacked India during the Kargil war in the summer of 1999.


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