Date: 06-12-2002

The East-West Wire is a news service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. For more information, contact Susan Kreifels at 808-944-7176 or

HONOLULU (June 12) -- Reduced tensions over the weekend between India and Pakistan are based on mainly symbolic gestures and the crisis is far from over, an East-West Center researcher said. The best hope for resolving the conflict remains neutral monitoring of the Line of Control separating Indian-controlled and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir to ensure that militants cannot cross.

"If a mutually acceptable monitoring method is found, war will be prevented," said Arun Swamy, a specialist on South Asia. "If not, it is difficult to see how the standoff can be resolved without a military confrontation."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, currently in New Delhi, is reportedly carrying such proposals. Swamy noted, however, that the terrain surrounding the Line of Control, the de facto border between the two portions of Kashmir, is difficult to monitor, and each side has already rejected one proposal to do so. Moreover, it is unclear whether any of the proposals would allow the use of force to prevent militants from crossing the line, as India would likely require.

The reduced tensions came after U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage conveyed private assurances by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that Musharraf would do everything possible to end the infiltration of militants into Indian-controlled Kashmir, according to Indian news reports. In exchange India announced that it will allow Pakistani commercial planes to fly over India again, and it pulled back some naval warships that were patrolling the high seas off Pakistan's coast.

However, India is also demanding concrete action by Musharraf against militant camps in Pakistani Kashmir before taking additional steps, while Musharraf has dismissed Indian actions as insufficient, Swamy said.

"The basic dynamic of the crisis remains the same as it has for months," Swamy said. "India is determined to obtain a permanent and verifiable end to Pakistani support for the militancy in Kashmir. Pakistan is determined to maintain pressure on India to negotiate with it over the status of Kashmir. Each believes that what the other wants would destabilize its own society incalculably."

Swamy emphasized that the measures announced by India could be easily reversed like Pakistan's crackdown on Islamic militants was in January. By contrast, it would be extremely difficult to reverse a significant demobilization by India or a dismantling of militant camps by Pakistan, and neither is likely to take steps without obtaining its objectives.

At the same time, "the standoff cannot continue indefinitely," Swamy said. "The cost of the military buildup is straining the budgets of both countries, especially Pakistan's."

Regular state elections are due in the Indian portion of Kashmir in September, and militant groups have, in the past, sought to disrupt these elections, Swamy noted. India has reportedly indicated to Rumsfeld that its test of Pakistani intentions would be whether the disruptions occur again. However, it will be politically difficult for Musharraf to restrain militants when the elections are intended to cement Indian control of its portion of Kashmir. Without some other mechanism for preventing militants from entering Indian-controlled Kashmir, an Indian offensive on Pakistani Kashmir remains a serious possibility.

Arun Swamy can be reached at 808-944-7542 or
This is an East-West Wire, copyright East-West Center