One month after the Mumbai attacks, the India and Pakistan militaries are preparing for war even as officials try to lower (and heighten) tensions publicly. The two countries have fought three full-fledged wars--one right after independence in 1947, another in 1965, and the third in 1971, ending in the creation of Bangladesh--as well as the more limited Kargil war/conflict of 1999.
I've highlighted some of the Western coverage from this weekend, much of it reported out of Islamabad, followed by articles and opinion pieces out of India and Pakistan. Please add your own links to coverage in the comments section.
The New York Times--"Pakistan Moves Troops Amid Tension with India":
Some of the Pakistani officials who spoke of the redeployment said it was partly a response to new intelligence that suggested India could launch an attack inside Pakistan by early next week. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity.
But two Pakistani intelligence officials — one from military intelligence and one from the country’s premier agency, Inter-Services Intelligence — described the situation in graver terms, and said troops along the border with India were on the highest state of alert.
Another Pakistani official said the air force had been in a “point defense” posture for one week, prepared to defend specific key defense installations and cities — including Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore — as well as the Kahuta nuclear weapons laboratory. Pilots are sleeping in uniform with their boots on, the official said.
The Wall Street Journal--"Tensions rise as Pakistan Moves to Redeploy Troops":
"We ourselves have accepted that we have a cancer," said Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in a televised speech Saturday. "They are forcing their agenda on us."
In the speech, Mr. Zardari made repeated references to his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed a year ago Sunday in a suicide bomb attack blamed on Pakistani militants.
In London, England, Pakistani envoy to Britain Wajid Shamsul Hasan countered the report, noting that winter redeployments are normal and that only police and not the army had their vacation canceled. While he criticized India's "coercive diplomacy" and regretted India's "war hysteria," he underscored the fact that the two countries don't want to go to war.
The New York Times-- "No Easy Indian Response to Pakistan's Troop Shift":
Though tensions have risen in the past few days, neither India’s governing coalition led by the Congress Party nor its habitually hawkish political opposition is advocating a military confrontation with Pakistan, the country’s neighbor and archrival.
The Mumbai attacks prompted bellicose outbursts from the Indian news media and led Indian officials to state that their “restraint” should not be mistaken for “weakness.” Yet even a surgical strike on terrorists’ training camps in Pakistan, one of the options floated in the immediate aftermath of the attack, would bring unwanted risks, according to policy makers and analysts.
The Washington Post-- "Pakistan Moves Troops from Tribal Areas to Border with India":
The Pakistani security official said the additional troops were deployed near the cities of Kasur and Sialkot in Punjab province as well as the Line of Control, the de facto border dividing Kashmir, a region that has been claimed by both countries since the bloody partition of the subcontinent in 1947.
Maulvi Omar, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, welcomed the government's decision to withdraw some troops from the tribal areas. "We will not attack the convoys of army withdrawing from tribal areas as it is a good development," he said, adding that the Taliban would help defend Pakistan against any aggression.
As Stratfor reported Dec. 22, there is a high probability of India using military force against Pakistan after Dec. 26, when a deadline expires for Pakistan to deliver on Indian demands to crack down on Islamist militant proxies that threaten India. With low expectations that Pakistan has the will or capability to deliver on these demands, India has spent the past month preparing for military action against Pakistan. Pressure is now ratcheting up on both sides of the border, with Indian Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, air officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Air Command, telling reporters Dec. 24 that as many as 5,000 targets in Pakistan have thus far been identified, while saying that many of the militants hiding out in camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have already fled.
The Daily Times of Pakistan:
- Mukherjee denies any ultimatum given to Pakistan
- Pakistani, Indian commanders make hotline contact
- Op-ed by Munir Akram: "Also, there is still no solid evidence that the Mumbai attacks were planned by a Pakistani group; or that the attackers were all Pakistanis. The audio recording of one of the attackers, available online, includes the use of Hindi words not in the Pakistani lexicon.
"There is a strong sense in Pakistan that the Indian government’s allegations are designed to deflect attention away from India’s own security lapses, to safeguard against erosion of electoral support for the ruling party and to utilise the crisis to further de-legitimise the Kashmiri insurgency."
From the popular blog Pakistaniat--"Signs of a brewing storm":
"The last time Pakistan was so isolated diplomatically against India was during the aftermath of Kargil."
Hindustan Times--all coverage is compiled on its "Sabre rattling" page, which currently centers on a photo of Pakistanis burning an Indian flag in Karachi. Readers can also respond to a poll, asking, "Do you think war will serve India's interest?" Current articles:
- "Pak not doing enough: Western diplomats"
- "Force of history is on India's side: PM"
- "Dialogue is only solution to terror, says Zardari"
- Voices from Pakistan: "More killed in Karachi than Mumbai: Pakistani PM Gilani"
- Voices from Other Countries: "China urged to persuade Pakistan to dismantle terror network"
The Times of India--"Pak says evidence gathered by US, UK won't stand in court" (TOI's home page contains the more provocative title, "Pakistan laughs off evidence given by US, UK"):
The evidence includes a confession by arrested terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab but Pakistani officials have contended that since it had been obtained by Indians under duress, this could not be admissible in court.
Further down, the reported piece shows signs of sarcasm and exasperation:
Pakistan's excuse now is that if it's expected to use all this evidence to put people like Lakhvi and Shah on trial, it would need testimonies from Indian witnesses, and all the mobile phones and satphones that were used for evidence.
Evidently, this is a dead end-road. If and when India gives up its own information to Pakistan, it would be met with exactly the same kind of belligerence, say officials.
The Times of India also has an op-ed by strategic affairs analyst K Subrahmanyam, "Wake up, Washington":
The Pakistani expectation that India would militarily react to this provocation has not been realised. Consequently the Pakistani army and the civil government it dominates are trying to whip up war hysteria. The objective appears to be to create a crisis either before president-elect Barack Obama takes over in America, or in the immediate aftermath of his inauguration, by which attention on Pakistan's non-cooperation with the US anti-Taliban campaign can be diverted.
From Pakistan's Dawn:
- "New Delhi says no extra troops sent to border"
- "Dialogue is our biggest arsenal: President Zardari"
- Top Indo-Pak military officials hold talks: "Diplomatic sources said Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir had expressed his concern over the mobilisation of troops by India while talking to the Indian High Commissioner Satya Brata Pal on Friday. The Indian High Commissioner had responded by saying that there was no additional deployment of troops at the border with Pakistan and had pointed out that the mechanism of DGMOs could have been used if there were any fears. The sources said the DGMO had talked to his Indian counterpart after the violation of Pakistan’s air space by Indian planes in Azad Kashmir and Lahore sectors."