Indian sabre-rattling as Pakistan preaches peace

Belligerent rhetoric from New Delhi is met with a desire to avoid conflict in Islamabad.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee vented his anger at Pakistan’s supposed support for Kashmiri terrorists on a visit to Indian soldiers in Indian Kashmir, making inflammatory statements like “The time for decisive combat has come and in this war, we shall win”, “our objective must be victory” and “the enemy found a new way to fight. He does not fight face-to-face but fights a war by proxy”.

Here Prime Minister Vajpayee was referring to New Delhi’s claim that the Pakistani authorities are paying mercenaries, which they call Freedom Fighters, to infiltrate inside Indian Kashmir. He claimed that “We want peace” but immediately launched back into the rhetoric in which he claimed triumphantly “We will win and we will be victorious!”.

This discourse comes after yet another attack by Kashmiri separatists on Tuesday, in which a moderate Kashmir politician was assassinated in Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir. A suicide bombing on 14th May left 35 dead near Jammu, after a previous attack in October 2001, which killed 38.

Kashmir has caused two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since the British Indian Territories were divided in 1947. The 1947 war saw a cease-fire two years later, drawing the current boundary, which divides Kashmir between Pakistan (in the north and west), India (south) and PR China (east). Another war broke out in 1965, which ended officially in the cease-fire of 1972.

In 1998, both countries performed a series of nuclear tests and one year later, the two-month Kargil Conflict broke out after Pakistani troops crossed the frontier.

The words from Islamabad, however, are more placatory, although all the aggressions to date have been perpetrated by Kashmiri Islamist fundamentalists, naturally supported by factions within Pakistan, if not the Pakistani government, which denies any such links. Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar has declared that “Pakistan wants to contribute in every way possible to alleviate the tension” in the area. “Pakistan is opposed to war”, he added.

Islamabad has confirmed that the official Pakistani position on Kashmir is to achieve peace “through bilateral negotiations” although if attacked, Pakistan will defend itself. President Pervez Musharraf stated recently that “No organisation in Pakistan is authorised to launch terrorist attacks in the name of Kashmir”.

In the event of war, Pakistan has fewer resources, but these are better equipped and trained and would be capable of repelling a first offensive. However, India has the resources to wear down Pakistan in the event of a prolonged conflict. India has 1.3 million men under arms (1.1m. in the army, 150,000 in the air force and 53,000 in the Navy) against Pakistan’s 612,000 soldiers (550,000 in the army; 40,000 in the air force and 22,000 in the navy) plus 513,000 reservists.

India has around 1,500 modern T-72 tanks (Russian) and several thousand combat vehicles of Indian construction or from other sources. Pakistan has around 380 T-80 tanks (Russian), much more modern than the T-72 and hundreds of other combat vehicles from other sources.

India has a population of 1,100,000,000 (1.1.billion) compared to Pakistan’s 150 million and a stronger economy which would survive a prolonged war much more easily. Deployment of nuclear weapons (India has 60 warheads against Pakistan’s 25) is highly unlikely against civilian populations but these could be deployed tactically in the event of a military reverse.


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