After the Agra summit, the Indian and Pakistani establishments have taken divergent routes. Having flirted briefly with salvaging the peace process, Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh and his boss have been leading the chorus in lambasting Pakistan (for promoting "cross border terrorism") and lampooning General Musharraf (for his "Kashmir fixation"). The sheer intensity of the rhetoric has carried it beyond the pale of domestic political expediency or even tactical posturing. Moreover, the pungent words have been more than matched by pugnacious deeds.
The feverish crackdown in Kashmir is accompanied by pointed warnings to Pakistan to shed its delusion that Indian forces have lost their appetite for fighting the militants. Yet, to raise their morale, interior minister L K Advani has simultaneously floated the possibility of an amnesty for over 400 security personnel facing criminal charges in Kashmir (and another 1000 in the turbulent northeast).
Following a series of unexplained massacres of civilians, many of them Hindus, a blank cheque has been given to the Indian occupation forces in the Jammu region as well. They can now do pretty much anything within the ambit of the law - including the demolition of houses that so much as "appear" suspect.
The fighter groups have denied targeting the civilians, including the Hindus, dubbed these killings as a stratagem of the Indian security agencies to malign them and demanded impartial investigation. Two much publicised incidents of spraying "diluted acid" on Muslim Kashmiri women not wearing the hijaab (attributed to a hitherto unknown outfit called Lashkar-e-Jabbar) have also been disowned and similarly blamed on the Indians.
The civilian deaths have certainly yielded no benefit to the Kashmiri cause, but have definitely given much ordnance to the Indian propaganda machine to bombard the militants and Pakistan with. Similarly, the "acid attacks" can only discredit the fighters and drive a wedge between them and the Kashmiri people - with India the only beneficiary.
The disproportionately large number of civilians in the post-Agra body count are being labelled by the Indians as the militants or their victims. If even a significant portion are indeed the freedom fighters, the resistance could have suffered serious reverses. And if the rest are innocent victims of Indian malevolence, even this could stress the pro-resistance feelings of the small Kashmiri population. On both counts, thus, the Indians would like to see themselves on the inside track.
Besides pulling all the plugs in Kashmir, there has been an all too propitiously timed spurt of bomb-blasts and terrorist killings in Pakistan and a flare-up on the LoC. Even the Indian cricket team will not visit Pakistan, lest it pull in a few dollars for its beleaguered economy. Clearly, before it re-engages Pakistan in talks, which seems unlikely anytime soon, India wishes to push its adversary to the wall and, particularly, deprive it of the perception of wielding the whip through the freedom fighters.
Against this Indian single-mindedness, post-Agra Pakistan appears to be juggling many balls. It echoed the initial Indian reaction that Agra was not a failure but an "inconclusive" engagement wherein the basics were agreed upon and could bear fruit in the next summit, possibly, in September in New York and another in Islamabad inside this year. A formal invitation for the latter was also rushed to prime minister Vajpayee (for whom and foreign minister Jaswant Singh, General Musharraf had expressed utmost, but unrequited, respect).
To dispel even the semblance of reciprocity, the Indians so scheduled premier Vajpayee's New York yatra as to exclude any chance of a meeting with General Musharraf. Stepping up their bellicosity, they have specifically targeted him for "not knowing diplomacy" or the obligations of a "god-like guest."
Against these petty provocations, Pakistan has remained the picture of propriety - regretting the vitiation of the peace environment, but refusing to be drawn into a slanging-match. It has also taken some steps which carry great symbolic significance.
The foremost is the Sindh government's move to bar the Jihadi groups from displaying their signboards and collection boxes in public places. Around two hundred activists were arrested on their failure to oblige, and then released amid conflicting news reports. The Sindh home secretary stressed that these steps neither implied a ban on the Jihadi groups nor barred the people from contributing directly to their coffers.
This hesitant, and yet very overt, probe into the hornets' nest, the conflicting sound bites and the seeming retreat suggest an attempt to balance the conflicting internal and external imperatives. The need to lower the Jihadi profile and rhetoric is self-evident, but so also are the implications of a crackdown. Similarly, the simultaneity of the crackdown on some sectarian outfits and pressure on the Jihadis could imply a nexus between the two. Even such a perception would be lethal to Kashmiri resistance.
These domestic sensitivities may explain the tentativeness, whose overtness could be for external consumption. But Pakistan may now be open to the pressure to go the whole hog. The Indians and the US, after all, focus more on what Pakistan has not done, rather than on what it has. And, internally, the very belligerent Indian backdrop has allowed the religious groups to blunt the crucial moral edge by alleging international arm-twisting.
Had the Agra summit not ended in a fiasco, or even if the Indians had maintained their initial post-summit stance of restraint and re-engagement, these steps could have found wider acceptance as home-grown measures to pave the way for reciprocity in the next Indo-Pak dialogue. The debilitating charge of wilting under foreign pressure, and the potentially explosive slogans of "Allah versus America," would then not have found many takers.
In the perspective of events imminent on the troubled Pak-US horizon, the seemingly hesitant steps could well be a little carrot - with more to follow if Pakistan is treated at par with India on the sanctions issue. The calling off of General Musharraf's Cuba visit on his way to, or from, New York fits into the same frame.
So also could the rather quaint enactment on the Madaris. The law has been promulgated, but will not take effect until notified by the government! Besides, it merely enables the government to set up combined religio-secular schools and to encourage others to join this network. There seems little in it to compel the "problem" Madaris to trade in their autonomy for government control.
Nonetheless, considering the negative imagery and Jihad-linkage built around the religious seminaries, the law has postural value. Similarly, whatever its worth, the "roadmap to democracy" also seems flavoured more for international consumption - as also the hurried implementation of "grassroots democracy."
It remains to be seen, though, if all these exertions will yield any quid pro quo either in terms of US sanctions or a breakthrough in the Kashmir impasse. This, naturally, will be the acid test.
The US could, in turn, dangle a carrot and remove a few barbs from the stick. But it is also likely to use the demand for a more substantive move towards democracy as the cover for more tangible help on Osama Bin Laden, and the Taliban in general. There is also the thorny nuclear issue.
While a possible de-nuclearisation is linked to Kashmir, it is questionable how much, if anything, Pakistan can, or should, deliver on the other counts. The cost in terms of a militant backlash against a perceived complicity with the US is too well known.
Similarly, given the speed it has gathered, India too is unlikely to shift suddenly into reverse gear. Instead, unless greater wisdom has reasons to believe otherwise, it is more likely to see the Jihadi ban as a chink in the armour and paint it as an undeniable admission of its charge that Pakistan provides sanctuaries to militants and can, if it chooses, reign them in.
Again, it is questionable how far Pakistan can balance its support for the Kashmiri struggle with a hard line on the Jihadis. More dangerous than any action against them would be the perception of capitulation to foreign pressure.
Thus, both internally and externally, some very critical balancing will need to be done in the weeks ahead. The juxtaposition of increasing economic vulnerability and an aggressive security agenda, has pushed Pakistan closer to the moment of truth. It seems fitting that the military should be in power when it makes landfall.
This article was published in Pakistan newspapger Jung with the Title "Treading a tightrope" Author is a freelance columnist. I found this article pretty funny.. because it is trying to justify Pakistan's support to terrorists in most crazy way.