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> WSWS : News & Analysis : Asia : Indian subcontinent
> Failure of US diplomatic mission brings ...
> India and Pakistan closer to all-out war
> By Keith Jones
> 28 June 1999
> Back to screen version
> India and Pakistan have moved closed to all-out war, following the apparent
> failure of a US effort to broker an end to fighting between Indian troops and
> Pakistani-backed forces in the Kargil-Dass-Batalik region of Indian-held
> Kashmir.
> On Friday, Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee said India would not run away
> from war, and that if war does erupt, India would keep any territory it
> captures. The following day, in a speech in the west Indian city of Pune,
> Vajpayee suggested Indian troops may cross the Line of Control (LoC) that
> separates Indian and Pakistani Kashmir—a strategy he had ruled out just two days
> before.
> Over the weekend, India intensified its efforts to dislodge the
> Pakistani-organized force that has taken up positions along mountain ridges
> overlooking the highway that links Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir,
> with the eastern Ladakh region, sending both planes and ground troops into
> action.
> Security forces in both countries are on high alert and their respective armies,
> air forces and navies have taken up strategic positions along the length of
> their common border and in the Arabian Sea.
> US seeks to prevail on Pakistan to withdraw
> A US delegation led by the Commander-in-Chief of the US Central Command, General
> Anthony Zinni, visited Pakistan last Thursday and Friday and met with top
> military commanders and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. According to US State
> Department spokesman James Rubin, the US delegation told the Pakistani
> authorities they should bring about the “withdrawal of forces supported by
> Pakistan from the Indian side of control.” Rubin's statement was the strongest
> public support the US has given to the Indian position that Pakistan has
> masterminded the current intrusion on the Indian-side of the LoC.
> Pakistani political and military leaders have dismissed the appeal of their
> traditional ally and arms-supplier, insisting that an end to the current
> fighting must be tied to a definite timetable for Indo-Pakistani talks on
> sovereignty over Kashmir. Moreover, the Pakistanis are demanding that provision
> be made for United Nations or other outside intervention in the Kashmir dispute
> in the likely event bilateral talks fail.
> “Situations like Kargil” will continue to erupt, affirmed Sharif, as long as the
> 52-year Indo-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir remains unresolved. A Pakistani
> military spokesman, meanwhile, accused the US of taking “a narrow view” of the
> current conflict. The US “line of thinking,” he declared, “encourages India to
> talk of war.”
> Indian military and political leaders were, for their part, quick to dismiss any
> suggestions that withdrawal of the Pakistani-supported forces to positions on
> the Pakistani-side of the LoC be tied to talks on Kashmir. Home Minister L.K.
> Advani flatly denied India was considering an offer of “free passage” for the
> “intruders.”
> On Sunday, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gibson Lampher met in New
> Delhi with India's External Affairs Minister Jawant Singh and National Security
> Council Secretary Brajesh Mishra. Lampher, who had accompanied Zinni on his trip
> to Islamabad, denied he had brought an offer of a Pakistani withdrawal. In
> deference to India, which is extremely sensitive about any action that could be
> seen as “internationalizing” the Kashmir question, Lampher said he had come to
> India not to mediate, but only to brief Indian leaders on the US mission to
> Islamabad.
> Nevertheless, the US is clearly actively seeking a means to defuse the crisis.
> According to a report in Sunday's Washington Post, Zinni was dispatched to
> Islamabad after President Clinton received a letter from Vajpayee warning that
> the heavy casualties India is taking in trying to recapture strategic positions
> on its side of the LoC may compel it to strike militarily inside Pakistan. Such
> action could well spark all-out war, and between states with proven nuclear
> missile capability.
> The Indian press has noted that Washington has not tied its calls for Pakistan
> to adhere to the current LoC with any threats of sanctions or other reprisals.
> But the Pakistani daily Dawn reports Washington has indicated “things” may “get
> bad” for Pakistan if it does not bow to US wishes, and the Washington Post has
> said the US could hold up a $100 million loan from the International Monetary
> Fund that Pakistan is slated to receive next month. (Last year, the US and other
> Western countries relaxed the sanctions they had imposed on Pakistan after it
> responded to Indian nuclear tests with tests of its own, because they feared
> Pakistan would be unable to meet its debt payments and that this could provoke
> economic and political turmoil.)
> Conflicts over how to respond to the US may account for the apparent differences
> that have surfaced between Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Pervez
> Musharraf in the wake of Zinni's visit. On Saturday Musharraf said efforts were
> underway to arrange a meeting between Clinton and Sharif, but the state-run
> television, which is controlled by Sharif, made no mention of such an
> initiative. Earlier Musharraf had given Pakistan's first implicit acknowledgment
> that it controls the anti-Indian forces fighting in Kargil-Dass-Batalik, when he
> told reporters that it “is the Prime Minister's decision” as to whether they
> will be withdrawn. He then added pointedly, “we will not withdraw unilaterally.”
> According to a London Sunday Times report, Pakistan's generals scuttled a
> government proposal for a phased withdrawal. It is widely suspected that the
> current incursion across the LoC was mounted by the Pakistani military, which
> provided the country's government for much of the past four decades, without the
> knowledge of civilian authorities.
> Whatever the true nature of the differences between Pakistan's civilian and
> military leaders, both have engaged in saber-rattling, including implied threats
> of nuclear war. On Thursday, Sharif told Pakistani troops near the LoC in the
> Pakistani state of Azad Kashmir that, “nuclear and missile technology has given
> us great courage.”
> Vajpayee flip flops on complying with LoC
> No less belligerent statements have come from India's political and military
> elite. On Friday, Kushabhau Thakre, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party
> (BJP), the dominant party in India's caretaker coalition, all but dared Pakistan
> to launch a nuclear-first strike on India. “Let Pakistan do it,” he said in
> answer to a question as to whether India should retaliate if Pakistan used
> nuclear weapons against India. “It will face the music.” Earlier last week,
> Organizer, the newspaper of the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS)—a Hindu
> chauvinist organization from which much of the BJP's cadre are drawn—published
> an editorial suggesting India should launch a nuclear strike against Pakistan.
> In an apparent attempt to dampen the war fervor gripping much of India's elite,
> including many of his own ministers, Vajpayee declared Thursday that India had
> no plans to cross the LoC. But by Saturday, he was saying such action could not
> be ruled out. “The media,” said Vajpayee, “keeps asking me this question and it
> is a difficult question to answer now. We will take the right decision at the
> right time.”
> Although Indian forces have been engaging the pro-Pakistani force in the
> Kargil-Dass-Batalik region for eight weeks and have subjected them to almost
> daily aerial bombardment for the past month, they have been unable to sever
> their opponent's supply lines. Shelling by Pakistani troops in Pakistani-held
> Azad Kashmir has hampered India's counter-offensive (both sides routinely shell
> the other's positions across the LoC.) And the rocky, barren terrain means any
> assault on the “intruders” mountain-top bunkers carries the risk of heavy
> casualties. According to Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes, India's
> military may require until September to complete the expulsion of the
> pro-Pakistani force.
> The Indian military's difficulties in bringing operation “Vijay” (Victory) to a
> speedy conclusion have prompted intense speculation that India will either
> attack the bases in Azad Kashmir that are supplying the “intruders” or open a
> second front elsewhere. Adding to the volatility of the situation is the
> approach of the monsoon season. Heavy rains, which are expected to begin in
> three to four weeks, would make it difficult for Indian troops to mount a
> counter-strike in most border areas, thus increasing the pressure for a speedy
> decision on whether to continue adhering to the LoC.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Copyright 1998-99
> World Socialist Web Site
> All rights reserved

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