27 May 2002

Musharraf dares India to go to war

27 May 2002
The Times of India

News Analysis

Musharraf dares India to go to war


NEW DELHI: With one eye fixed firmly on his domestic constituency and
the other on the international community, General Musharraf delivered a
hard-hitting speech that granted no fresh concessions on the terrorism
issue and essentially dared the Vajpayee government to go to war.

Logic and common-sense, however, suggest India should not be in any
hurry to accept the ``challenge''.

Given the fact that public opinion in Pakistan had not rallied behind
the General despite the imminent danger of an attack by India,
Musharraf's tone and tenor were along expected lines.

Anything that even smacked of bending before India's diktat would have
been the kiss of death for him.Last month's referendum which he tried
again Monday night to present as free and fair fatally exposed his lack
of support.

What he did, therefore, in his televised address was to try and rally
support for himself in the name of defending Pakistan. It was the
desperate verbal equivalent of the missile tests he conducted last week.

As Prime Minister Vajpayee has found out nothing unites a nation behind
its leader so much as the threat of war. And Musharraf appears to have
taken a conscious decision to up the ante.

Since Vajpayee has repeatedly been saying verbal assurances are not
enough, a promise of fresh action against terrorists crossing the Line
of Control would not have cut any ice with New Delhi.

In the event, any concessions Musharraf plans on making would have to be
implemented on the ground for India to be satisfied. And implemented
quietly, for the Pakistani public to not cry treason.

It is possible that the United States -- which has willy-nilly emerged as
a mediator in South Asia is already aware of this fact and has
communicated the same to India. Or it could be that the General wants to
enlarge the scope of US mediation with his uncompromising stance.

Hard as it may seem, the Vajpayee government will have to take the
General's provocative posturing in its stride.

Musharraf's strategy seems to be aimed at collapsing the vast space
which exists between diplomacy and war.

In the game of chicken New Delhi initiated following Kaluchak, the
General has decided to put his foot on the accelerator in the hope that
the international community will step in to pull both countries back
from the brink of what is bound to be a catastrophic consequences.

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