Asia-Pacific

Conflict in Kashmir

India and Pakistan: Cooling of Tensions

Indian troops
Indian troops stationed in Rajatal, near India's border with Pakistan, make their way to a field for a volleyball game, June 11, 2002 (Photo: AFP).

New Delhi Hindustan Times (centrist), June 8, 2002: Now that the war clouds have receded to some extent, there is bound to be a sense of relief in the subcontinent. Not that life in these parts had been badly affected by the threat of war. The task of earning a livelihood is far too engrossing an occupation in India and Pakistan for the average people to be too bothered about the future. Indeed, the exodus of the foreigners at the behest of their national governments had appeared amusing to most Indians. However, the dilution of the war threat does not mean that India can afford to lower its guard. The need for caution will remain because the jihadis, who have openly expressed their anger over General Musharraf’s submission to the U.S. diktat, may well decide to strike sooner rather than later. They may also receive assistance in this respect from the rogue elements in the ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency] and the Pakistani army who must be deeply unhappy at the prospect of ending their cherished 13-year-old proxy war in Kashmir. In the coming days, India will have to be extra careful in identifying such attacks as the handiwork mainly of the jihadis without official Pakistani sponsorship, as in the past. So, even if the threatening clouds have receded, they haven’t yet disappeared.

Rawalpindi Nawa-I-Waqt (conservative), June 1, 2002: Rumsfeld is not visiting this region as a part of lobbying effort on behalf of Pakistan or Kashmir. It is feared that after reviewing situation in Pakistan, he will go back home, giving India the green signal to strike Pakistan. It is vital that with the shifting of Pakistan troops from the borders of Afghanistan to the borders along with India, we should also get U.S. and allied troops out of our air bases. We should make it clear to the United States that it must tackle Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan itself, as we cannot ignore the Indian threat to our national security.

Islamabad Pakistan Observer (English-language), June 9, 2002: We obviously welcome whatever de-escalation is taking place. We are, however, intrigued by the fact that the Kashmir issue, which is the root cause of tension between India and Pakistan and the current stand-off is totally missing in the speeches… and telephone conversations by the leaders like President Bush and President Putin, who are the key players in the efforts to scale down the military confrontation. We are convinced that mere de-escalation will be illusive for peace, as it is neither an end in itself, nor a means to an end. De-escalation has to be vigorously followed with scrupulous efforts to seek settlement of the Kashmir dispute, if durable peace in South Asia is the real objective. No cosmetic or half-hearted steps can bring peace or address the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, who are rendering unprecedented sacrifices for freedom from the Indian yoke. It will be a great human tragedy if India is allowed to wriggle out of its commitment in the U.N. Security Council in the smoke screen of cross-border terrorism. If political expediencies overtake the legitimate rights of the Kashmiri people, there may be another stand-off between India and Pakistan in not very distant future again. And that may be more ferocious and dangerous not only for the region, but also for the world at large. 

New Delhi The Times of India (conservative), June 11, 2002: Though the threat of a nuclear exchange in the subcontinent has dissipated, the issues raised by the Pakistani nuclear threat and the U.S. response to it still remain.…What has been puzzling is the silence of the U.S. administration, U.S. academia and media about Washington’s responsibility in case of a nuclear threat conveyed by a small nuclear weapon state and the imperatives of U.S. national interests and national security.

Had Pakistan succeeded in its strategy of holding out a nuclear threat, a message would have gone out loud and clear to all potential rogue states that Islamabad’s path was the right one to follow. It would have signaled that rogue states could blackmail their neighbors without bothering about any punishment from the sole superpower. This supine behavior on the part of the sole superpower does not reinforce credibility in its much proclaimed counter-proliferation strategy. This could only strengthen the opinion among some sections in Japan or Iran which are neighbors of potential rogue states that they would have to go in for their own nuclear deterrence.
—K. Subrahmanyam 

Chennai The Hindu June 12, 2002: India has struck a note of caution even while responding positively to Pakistan's latest pledge of ending all terrorist incursions into Jammu and Kashmir. However, New Delhi's guardedness does not seem to diminish the emerging potential for an eventual rapprochement between India and Pakistan. A specific measure announced by New Delhi, in the first response to Islamabad's new commitment as relayed by the United States, is the removal of the ban on access to India's airspace by Pakistan for purposes of overflights by its commercial aircraft….Now, even while lifting the restrictions on overflights by commercial aircraft, New Delhi has indicated hesitation in allowing the resumption of the suspended air services to India by the Pakistani civil aviation authorities. If this smacks of some niggardliness, an ostensible argument in defense of New Delhi's action is that overflights will constitute a lower degree of direct contacts with Pakistan than that evident in a chart of regular flights to and from New Delhi. This will show that any diplomatic dialectics of such mundane detail does not measure up as the stuff of a high gesture. On balance though, given other signals from New Delhi, it is a welcome sign that India may hit a positive trail towards the de-escalation of the phenomenally high tensions in its relationship with Pakistan.

Karachi Dawn (centrist), June 12, 2002: The dark war clouds hovering over the subcontinent for the last six months seem to be dissipating, with both India and Pakistan making some constructive moves lately to that end. Developments over the last few days have helped create a sense of relief within the region and beyond—even though the risk of a war still cannot be ruled out….

As tensions soared, the world was reminded of how dangerous a confrontation between the two nuclear powers could be. A deeply alarmed international community then stepped in and employed all its diplomatic skills of prodding and persuasion to bring an end to the standoff. While Pakistan's assurance on infiltration and India's subsequent response may have lowered the level of tension, the threat of war still remains. Unless both sides withdraw their troops from the border, even a small spark could trigger open hostilities. Having come so close to the brink, both sides must realize that war is no solution to the problems straining their relations. Only a dialogue on all outstanding problems between the two countries—especially over the contentious Kashmir issue—can ensure a durable peace in the region.

Peshawar The Frontier Post (left-wing), June 7, 2002: India, which was initially cock-a-hoop over the perceived success of its diplomatic skullduggery in bringing pressure to bear on Pakistan on account of cross-border terrorism, is being served with strict notices by the international community, which must be unsettling for it but which it cannot ignore. In the light of these facts, it can be said that although the Almaty conference failed to produce any dramatic breakthrough in the Indo-Pak stalemate, it did manage to create a forward movement, which should be sustained.

Karachi The News (left-wing), June 11, 2002: The dramatic change from a virtual war-like situation between India and Pakistan to a sudden easing of tension is a welcome development if somewhat perplexing. Delhi has decided to allow use of its airspace by Pakistan and is expected to restore the bus and rail links and annul some other measures it took at the time of the tension. These moves will be warmly welcomed by Pakistan. But it is yet to be seen whether these steps will be followed by other measures by both the states such as ending the language of threats and a withdrawal of forces from the border and the Kashmir border….Both India and Pakistan, in spite of their profiles as nuclear powers with missiles to deliver those awesome weapons…do not count for much in economic grading on an international scale. Whatever resources they have need to be diverted to improve the lot of the people. Talk of conflict and threats are luxuries that should best be left for those states who have the financial wherewithal to indulge in them.

New Delhi Mainstream (independent weekly), June 12, 2002: Pakistan under Musharraf is isolated as never before in the world today. This is something acknowledged even by ordinary Pakistani citizens. Pakistan’s opinion-makers and brainwashed intelligentsia—the peace fighters of Pakistan hold a different position distinct from and independent of such element —have, however, refused to adopt an approach of self-introspection: they continue to attribute this to the “weakness of the Pakistani media” in comparison with its powerful Indian counterpart (which, in their blinkered view, has thus been able to skillfully mold international public opinion in India’s favor).

New Delhi Outlook (independent weekly), June 17, 2002: Those who doubted the power of coercive diplomacy ought to be silenced by now. Over the past week, we saw the major world powers unequivocally endorse India's stand that Pakistan must match deeds with words to stop terrorist infiltration. The world placed the onus on Pakistan to take the first step to defuse the crisis. In moving closer to achieve our national goal of ending cross-border terrorism, in pressuring Pakistan and in rallying international opinion in our favor, coercive diplomacy has delivered. War couldn't have achieved any of this and that alone should persuade our warmongers to pause and reflect.

But just the threat of war has hurt us. Bracketed with Pakistan, India too is now seen as a dangerous, unstable part of the world where medieval mindsets coexist with nuclear weapons—a volatile Molotov cocktail of a region where politicians, bureaucrats, military experts and even ordinary civilians talk loosely of nuclear war and mutual destruction. It's not just an unquantifiable thing like our image that has been damaged. A very quantifiable thing, such as our economy, will reel under the impact of two things—the consequences arising out of the evacuation of foreigners and the six-month-long high alert military mobilization on the border. The middle class, which jingoistically supported war-mongering, will wind up picking up the tab when they soon face joblessness, deteriorating incomes, high taxes, and inflation.

Calcutta The Telegraph (independent), June 17, 2002: The recalling of the warships that were patrolling international waters in the north Arabian Sea marks the beginning of the military de-escalation. It does not mean that the army will be demobilized from the borders, but the recalling of the warships is a signal that the international community is expected to easily understand for what it is.

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