Deja vu, all over again

Pakistan says ‘did too’.

That little skit is being played out again. Only this time, it makes very little sense.

Two incidents of firing from Pakistani territory — not necessarily from its uniformed army, as the Indian army chief was quick to point out — led to India using the military hotline to the Pakistani director-general of military operations (DGMO). The DGMO, of course, flatly denied that there was any firing going on. If Musharraf was really serious about confidence-building measures, the DGMO could have first carried out a check before responding, in the negative if it were to be so.

More than the firing, the manner in which the Pakistani army dismissed a nuanced complaint from the Indian authorities points not just to a lack of sincerity but an indication of malicious intent.

It is difficult to fathom what Pakistan achieves by a louder war of words; its tit-for-tat accusation that India too has violated the ceasefire across the Line of Control in Kashmir is more of a self-goal. Internationally, any escalation of tensions in Kashmir will remain squarely attributed to Pakistan’s sins of omission and commission. Musharraf’s nice boy image remains neat only as long as there is no mischief in Kashmir. It may be that Musharraf is resorting to the age-old practice of raising the Indian bogey to divert domestic attention from the soup he has gotten into in Balochistan and Waziristan. But he cannot simultaneously raise anti-India sentiments, keep the jihadis and al-Qaeda down, and go through the motions of a peace process. Something will have to give.

Musharraf’s game is to use jihadis to coerce India to yield on the negotiating table. India’s proper response in this case is to indicate to Musharraf that such tactics are unimpressive — not by responding in kind militarily or by quietly ignoring the move, but by freezing or postponing high-level peace talks until the point is taken.

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