India-Pakistan: May 22, 2002

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The commanders of the Indian armed forces enthusiastically told the media they were ready, willing and able to fight Pakistan when troops were sent to the border area six months ago. That was in response to a terrorist attack on India's parliament. The recent terror attack on soldiers families in Kashmir has made the generals more eager, and vocal, about striking back. The Indian press reports that the army has been given permission to strike terrorist camps in Pakistani controlled Kashmir. There is fear that Pakistan might escalate by attacking Indian bases outside of Kashmir. India has several divisions dug in along the Line of Control in Kashmir, making a Pakistani ground offensive there unlikely to succeed. Equally strong Pakistani forces on the other side of the Line of Control make an Indian attack unlikely to advance far. Since both sides have nuclear weapons, neither side has any reasonable prospect of winning a war in conventional terms. But many Indian generals, who command forces two or three times as powerful as Pakistan's, appear to discount the nuclear angle and just want to go after the radical Islamic organizations in northern Pakistan and Pakistani controlled Kashmir. Since these Islamic groups are very popular in Pakistan, such a military operation is unlikely to create anything but a Pakistani inclination to go nuclear. But Indian popular opinion is demanding that something be done about the terrorist attacks, especially the ones seen as major atrocities (like the attack on the Indian parliament and soldiers families.)

In Kashmir, a one day general strike was called by separatist and lawyers groups to protest police violence and the visit by the Indian premier. Indian police and army operations against rebels in Kashmir are not popular with the majority Moslem population. The rebels aren't very popular either, as they use force against non-Moslems, as well as against Moslems who will not actively support them when asked.

Over the last five days, heavy shelling across the Line of Control has killed 17 people on the Pakistani side.

Pakistani forces along the Afghan border are still cooperating with American special forces and CIA agents. But the search for al Qaeda and Taliban leaders may be hampered by the increasing tension on the Indian border. While only a few thousand Pakistani troops are in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, these troops are less inclined to get too involved working with the Americans as long as tensions with India continue to escalate. 

 

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