Facing US Heat, Pak May Keep Off J&K Polls

10 November 2008
The Times of India


New Delhi: Despite concern in India's security establishment over renewed American activism over Kashmir, the possibility of stepped up Pakistani 'intervention' in the state aimed at disrupting assembly polls is considered 'low' due to sustained US pressure on Islamabad to stay focused on al-Qaida and Taliban. Well placed sources said incidents triggered by infiltrators or local jihadis acting on direction of Pakistani agencies are not ruled out. In fact, though violence is clearly anticipated, a full-scale terror campaign may not happen. 'Obviously, militants will support the separatist boycott, but tolerance levels in world capitals to Pakistan stoking violence are low,' officials maintain. Engaged in fresh efforts to clamp down on Taliban, which has eaten into Kabul's authority, the US had made it plain to authorities in Pakistan that it would take a dim view of any 'diversion' of resources and attention to any other theatre. Pakistan army has been involved in anti-Taliban operations, even if reluctantly, while US has stepped up its drone attacks on terrorist bases. In the weeks to come, there is unlikely to be any shift in US intentions as it looks to bring Islamic militants in Pakistan under greater pressure. Painfully aware that former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had been fairly duplicitous in his assurances on acting against jihadis, the US has been more insistent. The ISI hand in the attack on the Indian embassy has only been more evidence of Pakistan's jihadi links. Sources said Pakistan army has drawn units away from its eastern borders on being fairly certain that Delhi will not spring a surprise. But in turn, India has argued that stepped up infiltration and repeated ceasefire violations do not display a sense of reciprocity. Any further escalation on part of Pakistan may result in US entering the picture. There have been calls for a 'dialogue' with Taliban and some Nato nations have pushed such a proposal but the possibility of these moves gaining traction is not seen as very high. The existence of a 'moderate' Taliban is doubted given its current leaders like Baitullah Mehsud's clear commitment to a violent jihad to establish 'Islamic' rule in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The view in Delhi is that while US strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan were extremely unpopular with Hamid Karzai pleading with Barack Obama to halt drone operations, the American forces really did not have many options. If Obama is actually able to draw up an exit plan from Iraq, it may only reinforce US attention on Afghanistan-Pakistan.