Friday, Apr 05, 2002
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By Atul Aneja
Highly placed Government sources said the Government earlier considered pulling back elements of some of its strike corps from the border by May end or early June. There was an anticipation that by that time, trends in cross-border infiltration would become clear. By summer, the snow would have melted and the passes used by the infiltrators would have opened up. The Government felt that in case of a decline in cross-border movement, the thinning down of forces along the border could begin. Simultaneously, the easing of tension, in all probabilities, would have opened the door for revival of a stalled dialogue between the two countries.
But the mood in the decision-making circles about de-escalation appears less upbeat now. In fact, internal debate within the Government is said to veering round to the view that India may have to lay greater emphasis on unilateral steps, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and wait for a more opportune time for reviving a high profile bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. It is also being assumed that reduction of infiltration at Pakistan's behest this summer onwards is unlikely.
In the Government's view, a delay in the withdrawal of troops offers three major advantages. First, it encourages the possibility of free and fair elections for the Jammu and Kashmir assembly this autumn. A heavier deployment, it is felt, will keep infiltration in check and reduce chances of internal violence in Kashmir. A less violent environment in which the fear of disruption by Pakistan is discounted, will, in turn, increase the chances of wider participation in the elections.
Second, the assessment here is that the United States will strongly favour the conduct of ''free and fair'' elections in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, the sources feel that Washington has already indicated that it would like all sections of Jammu and Kashmir's political spectrum _ including the Hurriyat conference _ to participate in these elections. Some senior U.S. officials in their meetings with sections of the Hurriyat Conference recently conveyed this, according to the sources.
Third, the security establishment here feels that a delay in de-escalation is likely to the keep the U.S. focus on Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf's performance on the counter-terrorism front. By then the U.S. would be in a better position to judge whether Gen. Musharraf has lived up to the hopes he had raised in his January 12 televised address. A new situation can arise later this year where political equations among India, Pakistan, the international community and particularly the U.S. are reappraised.
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