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In Pakistan it is feared that India is preparing for a short-duration war

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
Feb 14 - 20, 2000

For sometime past various quarters have commented on the possibility of a limited war between India and Pakistan. Political analysts have talked about it and the press particularly the foreign press, has splashed speculative stories about it. Now Niaz A. Naik, Pakistan's former Foreign Secretary and a leading player on the track-II diplomacy, has aired the fear of another conflict between the two countries. "We in Pakistan fear that India is prepared to open up a shor-duration five or six-day war. With their Prithvi and Agni missiles aimed at us, the armoured divisions in Rajasthan and Russian Sukhoi aircraft based in Srinagar, they (Indians) are capable of (inflicting) a lot of destruction". Mr. Naik was quoted as saying by the Times of India news service on last Thursday. These fears are supplemented by the increasingly aggressive posture of India and a war hysteria being created in that country. India is already on the rampage at the Line of Control, repeatedly violating the control line, and targeting the civilian population on this side of the border. Equally menacing have been India's war-games close to Pakistan borders. All this has added to the tension and made the situation highly explosive and vulnerable. There are apprehensions that India is upto some nasty games and may create somet trouble as President Clinton prepares for his long awaited visit to this part of the world. Mr. Naik, who is a frequent traveller to India and knows its leadership well, must have some solid reasons for fearing some sort of belligerency by India.

A series of ominous developments have taken place in recent days which have alarmed South Asian watchers all over the world. In keeping with his reputation, India's Defence Minister George Fernandes set the ball rolling on January 5 when he declared at a seminar on "challenges of limited war", organized by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, that the possession of nuclear weapons by Pakistan does not rule out the possibility of a limited conventional war. Presiding over the inaugural session of the seminar, noted Indian analyst K. Subramanyam asserted that India had to recongnize that it was "engaged in an uniterrupted war with Pakistan since 1947".

A few days later, taking a clue from his Defence Minister, India's Chief of Army Staff General Malik, in an interview with the New York Times observed that, despite Pakistan's nuclear capability, India could cross the LoC and enter Azad Kashmir in hot pursuit. As if these were not enough, the usually cautious Prime Minister Vajpayee said India was "ready for war' and declared Pakistan an "enemy country".

Carrying the threat into action, the Indian army crossed the LoC last week and launched an unprovoked attack on a Pakistani post in the Chamb sector, resulting in casualties on both sides. This was the most serious clash between the Indian and Pakistani troops since Kargil. The unveiling of New Delhi's new doctrine of fighting "limited wars" against Pakistan by Defence Minister George Fernandes has strengthened the impression that the Chamb clash was not a solitary incident but perhaps a probing operation which could be a prelude to more serious clashes across the LoC in the days to come. Fernandes told an international conference on Asian security that a conventional war had not been made obsolete by nuclear weapons. He said India was capable of fighting and winning" a limited (conventional) war, at a time and place chosen by the aggressor". This he says, has been proved by the Kargil episode. Fernandes accused the military leadership in Pakistan of embarking on a course of confrontation with India after acquiring nuclear weapons "in the mistaken belief that New Delhi would be paralyzed from an effective response because of the nuclear factor". He was parhaps responding to Gen. Pervez Musharraf who had earlier warned India that Islamabad would not hesitate its nuclear option as a last resort if India committed the blunder of attacking Pakistan. To make his intentions clear to Indian, he told the Indian Newspaper. The Hindu' in an interview that he was not interested in talking to India on any issue other than Kashmir. He also warned that Pakistan would not hesitate to use the ultimate means of defence in the country's armoury if New Delhi tried to take liberties with Pakistan territorial integrity.

As reported by Press Trust of India the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee while addressing a public meeting in the northern city of Jalandhar on Sunday (February 6) threatend Pakistan with a retaliatory strike against Pakistan if Pakistan ever used any nuclear weapon. He said there would be no talks on Kashmir. We will only fight for capturing the part of Kashmir which is under Pakistan's occupation.

So a fierce war of word is continuing unabated between India and Pakistan. This is accompanied by incessant firing across the LoC and sometimes even across the two countries' international border. A sudden escalation in the activities of the freedom fighters inside occupied Kashmir has followed an equally sudden increase in sabotage activities within Pakistan. From here it looks as it India and Pakistan are but only weeks away from another round of bloody conflict. It is commonly believed here that Niaz Naik assessment may be based on some solid information and this limited war may taken place after President Clinton's visit to the region.

India will be playing with fire if it goes ahead with the implementation of its doctrine of 'limited wars' against Pakistan. Keeping in view the five decade history of India-Pakistan relations and the fact that their bilateral ties are in their worse state at the moment, New Delhi will be making a serious error of judgment if it thinks it will be able to prevent it from escalating into a wider conflagration.