Egypt's stocks close lower on Tuesday as benchmark EGX 30 drops 0.47%    National Bank of Egypt wins licence to open Saudi Arabia branch    Egypt's iron and steel exports jump 197% in 8 months    Egypt's commodity exchange to start trading in cotton next year – minister    Egypt inaugurates world's largest water treatment plant    Ethiopia halts work at its embassy in Egypt for 'economic reasons'    Russia says it's in sync with US, China, Pakistan on Taliban    It's a bit frustrating to draw at home: Real Madrid keeper after Villarreal game    Shoukry reviews with Guterres Egypt's efforts to achieve SDGs, promote human rights    Sudan says countries must cooperate on vaccines    Over 100 officials resign from Tunisia's main Islamist party    Johnson & Johnson: Second shot boosts antibodies and protection against COVID-19    Egypt to tax bloggers, YouTubers    Egyptian court bans use of mosques for political purposes    Brazil calls up 8 EPL players for World Cup qualifying    Refugees in fear as sentiment turns against them in Turkey    We mustn't lose touch: Muller after Bayern win in Bundesliga    Egypt records 36 new deaths from Covid-19, highest since mid June    Egypt sells $3 bln US-dollar dominated eurobonds    Sisi calls on House, Senate to commence second legislative sessions on 3, 5 October    Huawei Technologies has invested $10 mln over 5 years in innovation centres in Egypt    Gamal Hanafy's ceramic exhibition at Gezira Arts Centre is a must go    Italian Institute Director Davide Scalmani presents activities of the Cairo Institute for ITALIANA.IT platform    Qa'a play showing at Lycee El Horreya Theatre, Alexandria is a must go    UAE-based Alameda to invest around $318 mln in Egypt in five years    Egypt to be removed from England's red travel list on September 22    Jordan hosts energy meeting today to discuss transporting Egyptian gas to Lebanon    Russia permits airlines to resume flights from 49 cities to Egypt    Egypt's Abu Soma Development partners with KOMPASS Education    Orange Egypt Introduces Amazon Prime Video    Tokyo Olympics: Cautious opening ceremony, shy start for Egyptians in competitions    Mallawi Museum in Upper Egypt holds recycling workshop for children during Eid Al-Adha    Egypt keen on stable tax policies to attract more investors: Finance Minister    Sudan declares state of emergency as water goes beyond Merowe Dam capacity    Niagara Falls illuminated in Egyptian flag to mark 23 July Revolution anniversary    Capital flows into EM keep recovering after March 2020 slump: Central Bank of Egypt    1 child orphaned every 12 seconds due to COVID-19-associated death: World Bank    Egypt, Japanese Olympic Committee discuss boosting sports cooperation    US emphasises AU's role in mediating Ethiopian damdispute    Ethiopia ready to resume dam talks with no legally binding agreements: Ethiopian official    Sunken city of Thônis-Heracleion in Egypt's Abu Qir bay yields new archaeological treasures    New films, concerts, and destinations for Eid Al-Adha holidays    Egypt, Oman discuss enhancing bilateral economic, investment relations    Al Ahly v Kaizer Chiefs: Cairo giants eye 10th CAF Champions League title    Tunisia hopes to have a UN role in resolving Egypt-Ethiopia dam dispute    APO Group enters new exclusive agreement with Getty Images on African press releases and images    On International Museum Day, Egypt opens two new museums at Cairo Airport    Old Cairo's Al-Fustat will be revamped on Egyptian President's directives    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

The dynamics of escalation

Drum-beating in New Delhi suggests that just as one South Asian war is dying down, another may be starting up, writes Iffat Malik from Islamabad
The latest India-Pakistan spat started when five militants of unknown origin attacked India's main parliament chamber, the Lok Sabha, killing eight people before being killed themselves. India immediately pinned the blame on Kashmiri separatist groups, supported -- so it claimed -- by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). The two groups specifically held responsible by New Delhi were Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e- Mohammed.
Lashkar-e-Toiba is a predominantly Kashmiri group, operating in Indian Kashmir. Jaish-e- Mohammed was founded by Maulana Azhar Masood and is based in Pakistan. Masood was the prisoner released by Indian authorities after his supporters hijacked an Indian Airlines plane in 1999 and took it to Afghanistan.
Pakistan vigorously denied the charges and condemned the attack. It called for evidence of Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed's involvement to be made public and said that, if such evidence were provided, it would take action. It also offered to participate in a joint inquiry with the Indians. Both offers were flatly rejected by New Delhi.
Acting on their conviction that Pakistan's ISI was behind the attacks, the Indians insisted that Pakistan stop promoting "cross-border terrorism." Pakistan's High Commissioner in New Delhi, Javed Qazi, was called into the Indian Foreign Ministry and served with a written demand that Pakistan arrest Lashkar and Jaish leaders and freeze their assets. Pakistan said it would not take such a measure without proof. The Indian Foreign Secretary also ruled out a prospective meeting between Pakitsani President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee on the sidelines of the forthcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in January in Nepal.
The Indians then went further by announcing that their High Commissioner in Islamabad would be recalled, and road and rail links with Pakistan would be cut from 1 January. At the same time there were troop movements on both sides of the India-Pakistan border and increased exchanges of fire across the Line of Control (LOC), which is the de facto border between Indian and Pakistani- controlled Kashmir.
Indian Home Minister LK Advani ominously said these were just the first of a "series of penal steps." He threatened that India might withdraw from the Indus River Water Treaty with Pakistan (one of the few examples of bilateral cooperation) and ban Pakistani civilian aircraft from flying over India. In the latest sign of deteriorating relations, Pakistan accused the Indian government of kidnapping and torturing one of its High Commission staff in New Delhi.
Could India and Pakistan be about to go to war again? The two countries have already fought four major wars. Just as Indians have blamed Pakistan for the Lok Sabha attack, so some in Pakistan have suggested that India staged the attack to malign Pakistan and the Kashmiri freedom movement.
Both versions are unlikely to be true. President Musharraf's government has nothing to gain and everything to lose by backing such an assault on the Indian Parliament. If New Delhi were responsible for the attacks, it could never hope to keep its involvement a secret. The most likely explanation is that one of the pro-Kashmiri groups acted on its own initiative.
The Indian response -- sabre-rattling about attacking camps in Pakistan, and recalling its High Commissioner -- appears disproportionate when one considers that only a handful of guards and minor personnel were killed. Far more people were killed in a similar suicide attack on the Legislative Assembly in Srinagar, the capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir State, on 1 October.
But India's response has to be seen in the context of the new global campaign against terrorism. India has long tried to portray the armed separatist movement it faces in Indian Kashmir as merely a problem of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. The attacks on 11 September, and the US response to them, caused New Delhi to greatly increase its efforts in this regard. It tried very hard to show that it was facing the same terrorist menace -- though sponsored by Pakistan -- as America. Hence the stress in Prime Minister Vajpayee's condemnation of the 13 December incident on "stopping both terrorists and those that sponsor them."
But the response of the Indian coalition government, headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was also motivated by domestic considerations. The BJP faces tough state elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) in two months time. Uttar Pradesh is the largest state in the Indian Union and without it no government can hope to hold power for long in New Delhi. The BJP has also been trying to pass a much- maligned piece of anti-terrorism legislation, the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO). This controversial piece of legislation has been attacked as draconian both from within India and from abroad. Finally, Defence Minister George Fernandes has been embroiled in a growing controversy over the purchase of special aluminium coffins for victims of the Kargil conflict.
The Indian government has made full use of the 13 December attack to relieve all these domestic pressures. To a large extent, it has been successful. The coffins scandal has been all but forgotten and many analysts predict POTO will now be passed without any significant opposition. And the BJP's hard-line stance against Pakistan should yield votes in Uttar Pradesh.
India's drive to have Kashmiri separatism labelled as a terrorist movement with Pakistan as its sponsor has been less obviously successful.
President Bush and other senior administration officials were quick to condemn the attacks on the seat of the "world's largest democracy." But the White House fell short of backing Indian condemnation of Pakistan. Washington urged New Delhi to share the findings of its investigations with Islamabad and also offered FBI assistance. Although the US did add Lashkar-e-Toiba to a list of individuals and groups suspected of terrorist activity whose assets are to be frozen, it carefully described the group as "a stateless sponsor of terrorism."
America, Russia, China and other countries have expressed concern about the escalating tension in the region. Few believe that India seriously desires or is planning a war with Pakistan. Nor do many give credence to Indian threats that they will it strike suspected camps within Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Irrespective of the motive and selective targeting, that would be seen by Islamabad as an act of war and it would respond in kind.
The danger, however, is that the situation could spiral out of control. The dynamics of escalation could force a conflict even where one was never intended.
Fortunately, there are people on both sides who seem aware of this danger. President Musharraf has warned the Indians against any "adventurism" but his government did not take the knee-jerk response, common in the past, of recalling its High Commissioner from New Delhi. India's Prime Minister Vajpayee has also tried to dampen down the war-mongers within his own party, reminding them that war was only one of a number of options.
A full-blown war or any kind of serious military engagement is unlikely, but the whole episode will definitely be a further setback in relations between the two nuclear powers. In the past the first agenda item on any India-Pakistan talks would usually be Kashmir. Now, it will have to be the resumption of normal diplomatic relations. Resolving the Kashmir dispute will, therefore, be that much more difficult.
Recommend this page
War coverage
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
[email protected]

Clic here to read the story from its source.