Pakistan's Tremors Worry India
Thursday, November 15, 2007; 11:38 AM
Pakistan's political crisis has elicited little official response from its eastern neighbor so far. India's government expressed regret (IHT) over Pakistan's difficulties and signaled confidence that more normal conditions will soon return. Experts say India does not want to appear to be interfering in Pakistani affairs, nor does it want to upset the delicate balance achieved in the last couple of years in the peace process.
India and Pakistan have fought four wars against each other and came very close to a fifth after the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. Both Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are credited with easing tensions and improving cross-border relations through peace talks. But India remains vulnerable to any instability in Pakistan, especially in Kashmir, where militant groups continue to operate. According to Indian media reports (Times Now), political uncertainty in Pakistan "has led to an escalation in infiltration and consequently militancy in Jammu and Kashmir."
Indian troops along the Line of Control in Kashmir as well as in other northwestern Indian states along the Pakistani border were placed on high alert soon after Musharraf declared emergency. The Times of India quoted a senior officer of the Indian army registering concern about renewed militancy in Kashmir "to placate hardliners upset with the military action being taken against Islamic fundamentalists in the tribal areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan." But Pakistan's Foreign Minister denied any recent increase (IANS) in infiltration across the border into India.
The possibility of terrorist sleeper cells being activated in other parts of India also worries the army (IANS), says Army vice chief, Lt. Gen. Milan Lalitkumar Naidu. India's national security advisor said these cells were responsible for the recent blasts in Ajmer and Hyderabad.
But while the Indian government strikes a cautious tone, Indian media are full of alarm about the potential spillover. One writes in the Indian Express: "If the Pakistani army fails to regain control over its western borderlands, the entire subcontinent will pay for a regionwide surge of religious extremism and terrorism." Another, writing in Outlook magazine, calls the creation of Pakistan "unnatural and artificial" and warns that India must now prepare for an escalating threat of terrorism. A new CFR.org podcast points out that it is precisely this thinking that led to the buildup of the Pakistani army in the first place -- a buildup which eventually worked to undermine democracy in Pakistan.
Instability in Pakistan also sparks worries about its nuclear weapons. Recent estimates put Pakistan's number of nuclear bombs or warheads between thirty-five and ninety-five. The New York Times says A.Q. Khan's nuclear proliferation business "thrived when Pakistan's leadership was at its weakest and most corrupt." India's army chief General Deepak Kapoor told Times of India "dirty nuclear bombs falling in the hands of jihadis is definitely a worry for all stable countries and democracies."