India’s election verdict – Pakistani views

Vajpayee’s election defeat was unexpected and has come as a general shock for most Pakistanis. However, editorials in the main English language newspapers suggest that Pakistanis do not expect any major reversal in India’s foreign policy.

In any case, it is rare that a dramatic change brought about by elections results in India radically improves or worsens relations between the two countries. India’s policy towards Pakistan is a carefully crafted strategy which is based on extensive studies and calculations. It is not like our India policy which mainly depends on the thinking of the presiding leader. [The News/Jang]

Congress’s secular stance went down more favourably with the Muslim minority. Will the change at the helm in India mean a change in foreign policy directions as well? In Pakistan the main concern is understandably about the future of the peace dialogue which has just been launched.

From what has generally been stated by various party leaders, it appears that the government which takes over in New Delhi will sustain the BJP’s policy vis-a-vis Pakistan and Kashmir. Since this did not emerge as a major election issue in the campaign, one can safely assume that the Indian electorate favours peace with Pakistan. It can only be hoped that the BJP in opposition will not suddenly turn hawkish on this issue. [Dawn]

Najam Sethi of the Daily Times warns that some ‘unexpected hurdles’ may crop up and jeopardise the India-Pakistan peace process, causing Musharraf to resume cross-border terrorism in order to coerce the new Indian government to negotiate.

General Musharraf has already shown some impatience in wanting to move ahead with the composite dialogue while focusing on the ‘core’ issue of Kashmir. Now he will have to cool his heels a bit more. And if there is no meaningful headway with the Congress government before the summer is out, especially on Kashmir, he will come under pressure from his own side to open the jihadi tap again. If that happens, the whole process could unravel in decidedly unfriendly ways. [Daily Times]

Pakistanis generally expect some serious concessions from India over Kashmir during the peace talks slated for July-August this year. Musharraf may not want to antagonise the new government by immediately opening the jehadi tap, but if the talks end up with results not to his taste Kashmir could witness an upsurge in cross-border infiltration and terrorism.

The new government will then find itself negotiating with a gun to its head.

6 thoughts on “India’s election verdict – Pakistani views”

  1. A question for you: What sort of concessions do you suppose the Pakistanis have in mind? I have read, elsewhere, that the Pakistanis want a reduction in Indian troop levels. And, of course, they’re (hypocritically) ‘concerned’ about the human rights situation in J&K.

    About the jehadi tap: Sethi, and the Pakistanis generally, think that it can be turned on and off at will. Bracketing the question of whether the post-9/11 climate (even given America’s reliance on Pakistan) allows a tactically significant flow of jehadis across the LOC, I suspect that the recent counter-inflitration measures alone, won’t allow Pakistan to increase cross-LOC jehadi traffic to that level.

  2. Kumar,

    I do not think that fence or the accompanying electronics can alone stop cross border infiltration. Traditionally, terrorists are sent in under covering fire by Pakistani forces. But there is a huge delivery system behind this which starts all the way from the madrassas in prominent Pakistani towns, and goes all the way to the infiltration routes across the border.

    The US will have its own share of elections and confusion: if Kerry wins, the confusion may last almost a whole year. Even if he does not, Musharraf has plenty of tactical room to play the jehadi card in Kashmir.

  3. Nitin:

    I quite agree that the fence (& other counter-measures, both static & dynamic) won’t stop jehadi traffic. Rather, even taking into account possible Pakistani responses (e.g., resuming covering fire, targeting sections of the fence itself) this traffic will be more effectively funneled and thus more easily detected by the Indian army. Funneling and detection is the key to reducing the cross-border traffic to a tactically insignificant level, i.e., a level at which India won’t be forced to negotiate with a ‘gun to its head’.

    What level of traffic do I think will yield such a strategic benefit? Probably, the level characteristic of the years immediately preceding the Kargil war–one which, in absolute terms, was hardly insignificant. Recall, the counter-insurgency was successful enough in those years to inspire Manoj Joshi’s book on Pakistan’s lost insurgency in the Valley.

  4. Nitin,

    I am of course not certain that the counter-measures will yield the desired strategic benefit to India, just somewhat optimistic about its likelihood.

    I should add that my confidence was increased by Stephen Cohen’s remark to the effect that the fence was a good idea. Specifically, he said that he wasn’t sure why India hadn’t built the fence long ago.

    Cohen certainly can’t be accused of taking a sanguine view of Indian policy in J&K, to say the least! I take his statement as an implicit endorsement of the fence’s effectiveness to some degree, though I’m not sure Cohen would go as far as I have.

    About the tabling of Pakistan’s resolution in the Sec’y Council: Yes, Pakistan does seem to have this U.N. itch over J&K. But it’s an itch that won’t be scratched. Just more noise from Pakistan, which won’t lead to any significant damage to India.

    That said, I wonder if the Pakistanis thought that they could table this resolution while India isn’t looking. Perhpas the change of govt. in India–and the resulting inattention on India’s part, or so Pakistan thinks–emboldened them to table this resolution? Has there been any reaction from the GOI ?

    Kumar

  5. Kumar,

    Pakistan is taking the chair at the UN Security Council and its Foreign Minister Kasuri personally intends to chair a session. Not sure if the resolution intends to play to the galleries or is sneaky tactic.

    Either way, it reveals how silly it will be to take any deal with Musharraf too seriously.

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