"President Musharraf's crackdown on militant groups supporting the insurgency in Kashmir, however imperfect, is seen among Pakistan's governing class as unprecedented..."
India and Pakistan: The Dispute Burns On as Armies Withdraw
By AMY WALDMAN with DAVID ROHDE
New York Times, NEW DELHI, Oct. 22 — In an undertaking almost as mammoth as preparing for war, India and Pakistan are getting ready to pull hundreds of thousands of troops back from their border after the largest and longest peacetime standoff in their history.
Seeing the possibility of a new beginning in the stalemate's end, American officials have begun talking hopefully of renewed dialogue between the nuclear-armed rivals. But officials and others on both sides of the border, called the Line of Control, say the core dispute between India and Pakistan is no closer to resolution.
Both countries still claim the Himalayan state of Kashmir, which is divided between them. More immediately, India believes that Pakistan is still aiding militants in the Indian-governed part of Kashmir, where insurgents have waged a 13-year secession struggle.
Still, the pullback closes a fraught chapter in the relationship between the two countries, one majority Hindu, the other Muslim, which were cleaved from one another in the partition of 1947. Last December, India blamed Pakistan-backed militants for an attack on its Parliament, and promptly mobilized for war. As their armies faced off, the world shuddered.
American officials stepped in to help defuse the standoff and apply pressure to Pakistan, whose leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, pledged to crack down on terrorism emanating from its soil.
That promise appears to have been only partly fulfilled. Indian officials say infiltration from Pakistan into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir by Islamic militants has surged and lagged since May, when President Musharraf promised a permanent end to cross-border terrorism, but it has never stopped.
In Pakistan, small amounts of infiltration are believed to continue, although not with active state sponsorship.
India decided to de-escalate anyway, calculating that the costs of coercive diplomacy, primarily the toll on its military, had come to outweigh the benefits. Privately, officials also concede that one of the diplomatic goals of the buildup — increased international pressure on Pakistan — had been achieved.
Indian officials say Pakistan has been forced to admit that it can control Islamic militants, even if it has not fully exercised that control.
So India is turning to other forms of leverage for now, withholding the dialogue that it believes President Musharraf badly wants.
Since announcing the pullback on Wednesday, Indian officials have said there will be no further normalization of relations, and certainly no dialogue, until Pakistan does more to control militants based within its borders.
Pakistan, in contrast, has indicated that it is open, even eager, for dialogue.
"We hope as the troops withdraw, tension would subside," Aziz Ahmed Khan, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said today. "But the real measure of tension subsiding would be to sit across the negotiating table and start talking to each other."
The bridge between those two poles may be the high level of American diplomatic involvement in the region, which appears to be a lasting legacy of the standoff. American officials have been pushing for what has been called, in inelegant diplomatic jargon, "simultaneity" — the notion that India should begin talking to Pakistan even as America and other interested countries continue pressing Pakistan to plug the wellspring of terrorism.
"Our view is that these things should go in parallel," the United States ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, said in an interview with the newspaper The Indian Express published on Saturday. "We and others will continue to work very hard in Islamabad to try to promote the objective of no more terrorism emanating from Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled territory. But at the same time, India and Pakistan should resume a serious discussion about their differences."
The Indian government has so far not cottoned to that idea. Naresh Chandra, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, said, "The government needs an excuse" to start talking again, largely to give it political cover domestically. "Some new situation has to emerge," Mr. Chandra said.
On the Pakistani side, no overt concession is likely to be immediately forthcoming. President Musharraf's crackdown on militant groups supporting the insurgency in Kashmir, however imperfect, is seen among Pakistan's governing class as unprecedented and India's demand for more as unrealistic.
Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and analyst, said that Pakistan was genuinely interested in a diplomatic resolution, but that India was giving it no political cover for a major policy reversal. "They have been following a certain policy for 55 years," he said of Pakistani leaders, "and now India and the U.S. say you give no support for the Kashmiris — full stop."
If a dialogue were to begin, it is unclear where it would lead. Kamal Matinuddin, a retired Pakistani general and diplomat, said Pakistani officials continued to see the insurgency in Kashmir as an indigenous and legitimate "freedom struggle," while Indian officials continue to dismiss it as Pakistani-manufactured "terrorism."
"One man's hero is another man's terrorist," he said. "That will not change."
Indeed, it may be particularly resistant to change now, with religious parties who see the struggle for Kashmir as an article of faith winning record popular support in recent elections in Pakistan.
But the American perspective is that, for now, talking is everything. "If India and Pakistan do not discuss their differences seriously and in a prolonged way," Ambassador Blackwill said in the Indian Express interview, "why is this crisis ever going to go away?"