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28 Dec, 2008 06:50

Tension mounts between India and Pakistan

Pakistan and India are massing thousands of troops along their border.

Confrontation between the two has intensified in the month since the devastating Mumbai attacks, which India blames on Pakistani extremists. World leaders have appealed for both nations to show restraint and calm.


Relations between the two nuclear neighbours have come under pressure after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the discovery that the terrorists, including the one captured alive, are allegedly Pakistani.

India had asked Pakistan to crackdown on the alleged perpetrators and help India bring them to book.

Over the last month Pakistan has not complied with India’s requests and while both sides say they do not want any conflict, the increased tension has resulted in speculation about war.

Security analyst Uday Bhaskar cautiously calls it ‘a higher level of military readiness’:

“India and Pakistan have definitely moved towards a higher level of military readiness on both sides and a war of words has raged since the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 26,” he said.

India is unhappy with Pakistan’s response to demands to bring the alleged terrorists based in Pakistan to book.

“There may be pressure to do something, definitely politically, but it could possibly be some kind of military counter-measures, not in terms of attacking Pakistan, but it could involve partial mobilisation or something,” said former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal.

While most people in India feel that war is unlikely, some are warning that the atmosphere is heavily charged and the slightest thing could trigger an escalation.

Pakistan has also upped the rhetoric with the government taking a firm stance.

“We’ve made a resolution at the tomb of Benazir Bhutto that we will not let down the people of Pakistan. If India tries to fight, we will give an appropriate response. We do not have war plans. If they go to war, we’ve promised at this tomb that we will give the due response,” said Pakistani Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar on Friday.

In India the view is that Pakistan is beating the drum of war to divert the world’s attention from the main issue of terrorists on their territory and that India is very unlikely to attack Pakistan.

“We have never been the aggressor or started any war and it’s unlikely that we will do anything this time unless Pakistan starts the hostilities against us,” said defence analyst Parmbir Singh Bawa.

As the world puts pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorism and asks India to show more restraint, there is hope that the tension will defuse. However, the core issue of terrorism will be more difficult to resolve.