Terrorists are spilling blood as freely as before in Kashmir. At the same time, there are significant moves by a number of parties toward lesser hostility between India and Pakistan. A trend of less hostile rhetoric has developed between the Indian government and the Pakistani civilian administration. There appears to be a decline in infiltration from Pakistan, and some pressure from the Pakistani military government on jihadis. One piece of evidence for this is the Kashmiri pro-jihad secessionist Syed Ali Gilani accusing Pakistan of succumbing to Indian and U.S. pressure. While Gilani is not always honest, this is an accusation he would not gain from making if he did not believe it to be true based on his contacts with Pakistani jihadis and Kashmiri militants. Further, Gilani was replaced after his outburst in the main Kashmiri secessionist political organization, the Hurriyat Conference, with a more moderate person.
On the Indian side, there are two developments of military relevance. First, the army has mounted successful operations in mountainous forest areas adjoining the line of control. This is significant because jihadis have been using these areas for years as safe routes for infiltration and then as a base for attacks. They could do so because Indian security forces could not find them in the forest. Improved night vision devices supplied by Israel and France have played a major role in the Indian army’s recent successes. This new capability should reduce further the flow of jihadis across the line of control. Second, the U.S. has agreed to the sale of an advanced airborne radar by Israel to India. This sale of three such radars would enhance Indian air power somewhat, and could be followed by more sales. This is a major step in military cooperation between India, Israel, and the U.S. It is also a message to Pakistan that the military balance will continue to shift against it.
Within Pakistan there are subtle shifts that are feeding the positive trend. The civilian political class, including both fundamentalists and liberals, has mounted a sustained challenge to Gen. Parvez Musharraf’s effort to give his dictatorship constitutional sanction. Rising resentment of America by the fundamentalists has caused some of them to reconsider their attitude toward India. Qazi Hussein Ahmed, the most prominent Pakistani fundamentalist politician and former godfather of the terrorist group Hizbul Mujaheddin, has proposed to India to settle differences and join hands with Pakistan against America. Ahmed has said that as long as Pakistan is in confrontation with India, it will remain a “slave of America.” At minimum these words are a sharp break from the jihadi rhetoric against India that Ahmed pioneered.
There is also a shift within the Pakistan army. Musharraf has become the army chief-for-life. Meanwhile, all other generals are required to retire in the normal schedule. The same happened with Gen. Zia-ul-Haq when he was the dictator. His tenure as army chief ended with an explosion on his plane. Prior to take-off, only army personnel had access to his plane. Many suspect an army conspiracy as the cause of Zia’s death. There are several press reports of Musharraf’s unpopularity in the army. The Kashmir cause of Pakistan has long rested on the corporate interests of the army. But the army itself is now divided between Musharraf and the other generals. The disunity of the army is creating the opening for other elements in the Pakistani establishment to demote the Kashmir cause among Pakistan’s priorities.
For India, a decline in terrorism would be welcome. Until there is democracy with civilian supremacy in Pakistan, a fundamental change in the relationship with Pakistan will not occur. It is possible that a conciliation process would trigger domestic changes in Pakistan. After the Lahore summit in 1999, Pakistani domestic reaction took the form of a military take-over. But the international order has changed since then. A jihadist reaction is less likely at this time. The only remaining path is toward a more liberal order.
There are some diplomatic and economic benefits to India from a continued thaw. Improved relations with Pakistan will not deliver major benefits to the Indian economy. India spends 2.5-3 percent of its GDP on military purposes. The most that can realistically be saved after a comprehensive peace with Pakistan would be 1 percent of GDP. That will help only a little, and there are already several ways in which an additional 1 percent of GDP can be channeled to civilian needs. Reconciliation with Pakistan will help India’s diplomatic status in the world. Now India has to expend its diplomatic capital to prevent other states from aiding Pakistan. For example, India’s main objection against China is its nuclear and military aid to Pakistan. With reconciliation, other goals could be pursued.
After the U.S.-Iraq war, the world is moving toward a self-sustaining multipolar order. America’s split with France and Germany is likely to endure. A new pattern of international political competition is emerging. The U.S.-led Western bloc that faced India after the demise of the USSR is dissolving. This will pressure all powers, including the U.S. and China, to compete harder for India’s favor. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s improved status at the global summits in St. Petersburg, Russia and Evian, France is a preliminary indication of this. Pakistan will be further marginalized in the new order. There will be sustained pressure on Pakistan on the question of cross-border terrorism. n
Sanjoy Banerjee teaches International Relations at San Francisco State University. He writes about India, America, and the world.