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India-Pakistan see-saw game is on again

New Delhi: There are ominous signs in the air of an imminent aggravation in the India-Pakistan standoff over Kashmir. The immediate provocation for the aggravation, from Indian point of view, is the terrorist attack on Akshardham temple in Gujarat's political capital Gandhinagar last week which killed 30 people. According to available information, the attackers did it to revenge for Gujarat riots in March-April.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital, had witnessed sustained anti-Muslim pogrom earlier this year. The pogrom, which had spread all over the state, claimed at least 2000 lives (nearly all Muslims) and led to massive destruction of property, loot, arson and rape of Muslim women. Nearly 100,000 survivors were forced into relief camps.

In an attempt to divert attention from the most apparent motive of the attack, deputy prime minister LK Advani blamed Pakistan for last week’s temple attack which demanded proof. Advani said because Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf raised the issue of the anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat at the UN, the temple attack must be a handiwork of Pakistan!

Another reason cited by Advani for his belief that Pakistan was behind the attack was that Pakistan did not like peaceful elections in Kashmir, and the terrorist attack was its way of making its feelings known.

President Musharraf rejected the charge saying the terrorist attack could be related to the killing of "thousands of Muslims" in Gujarat earlier this year. A letter recovered from the pocket of one of the two slain terrorists said they belonged to Tehrik-e-Qasas (movement for retribution). Unofficial reports said the letter was about avenging the murder of innocent Muslims in Gujarat pogrom. The official version of the letter’s content is still awaited.

Over the last week the borders have heated up once again. Fearing a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan, President Musharraf warned India on September 29 not to try to emulate the US because Pakistan was not Iraq. Earlier Pakistani leaders had said "India is not the US and Pakistan is not Afghanistan".

Speaking to police and intelligence officers in Delhi, Monday, September 30, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said that "Pakistan must be held accountable for its continued sponsorship of terrorism in India."

Two days earlier, speaking to Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and workers Saturday, September 28, in Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, deputy prime minister LK Advani had said Pakistan was impervious to the present Indian policy. Advani hinted at an "alternative strategy" against Pakistan.

Federal minister of state for home ID Swamy said earlier in Jammu and Kashmir capital Srinagar Thursday, September 26, "All options are still open for us to tackle the growing menace of cross-border terrorism. Even war comes in these options".

Developments over the last four days indicate a slideback towards Indo-Pak conflict. Heavy exchange of artillery fire was reported Friday night in volatile Kargil and Uri in Kashmir sector and Pooch and Rajouri in Jammu sector along the Line of Control.

Pakistan’s premier English daily The News reported on September 30 that India was planing pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan. It reported, quoting "a high-placed official" that the "Indians are making ominous moves through their army, navy and airforce, which rung alarm bells here and we are taking appropriate counter measures to be in a position to neutralise any threat."

The official said the Indian army headquarters had ordered all personnel on leave to report back to the frontline units along the borders with Pakistan by October 1. "More ominously, attack aircraft that were withdrawn to the rear bases in June are now moving back to forward operating bases," the official said.

The News also reported Indian ships and submarines moving closer to approaches to the Pakistani waters. This, the official said, mirrored "recent threat by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and deputy prime minister LK Advani."

Another Pakistani official said India was trying to emulate US unilateralism vis-a-vis Iraq.

Meanwhile, Indian finance minister Jaswant Singh told reporters in Washington on September 29 that "pre-emption or prevention is inherent in deterrence. The same thing is there in Article 51 of the UN Charter which calls it the right of self-defence."

Singh said it was "the right of any nation to prevent injury to itself. Every nation has the right. It is not the prerogative of any one country", he said. That keeps Pakistan guessing whether a pre-emptive strike from India is in the offing.- MG Correspondent 
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