India planning 10-day AJK assault
Daily Times Report
NEW DELHI: India is planning a 10-day “limited” assault in Kashmir if “infiltration does not significantly drop”, a senior Indian military official told Indian daily Christian Science Monitor (CSM) on Thursday.
The short Indian military operation is designed to capture territory and destroy the infrastructure of militants quickly, the official said.
The battlefield scenario, says the official, is premised on the calculation that it will operate under the nuclear threshold and the international community will step in to prevent the conflict from escalating. “It will be like Kargil (the 1999 war between India and Pakistan),” said Maj-General (r) Ashok Mehta, an Indian military analyst.
“The military action will be predominantly infantry-led and intensively supported by the air force,” he told CSM. Within the first 48 hours, India is expected to attack the Neelam Valley Road across the Kupwara sector in Held Kashmir, says an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer involved in the planning. The IAF will try to destroy an important bridge over the Jhelum River, which connects Pakistan with Azad Kashmir. But “Indian action will attract heavy Pakistani punishment,” says General Mehta.
“The Indians are practicing a policy of ‘compellance’,” says Stephen Cohen, a senior fellow in security issues at the Brookings Institution, reached at a conference in Tokyo. “They are threatening to use force to compel another country to alter its behaviour. In this case, their target is both Pakistan and the US, and they are compelling the US to put pressure on Musharraf to rein in cross-border terrorism.”
Numerous diplomats’ visit to the region since January might be an indicator the strategy is working. US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca have visited the region. This week, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw arrived with a proposal to beef up the 35-member UN monitoring force. Mr Straw said a helicopter-borne force of 300 could “effectively monitor (the LoC and verify) whether the Indian charges are right or not.”
In New Delhi, those close to the prime minister and to External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh say India intends to keep up the pressure on Pakistan until Musharraf follows through on promises made in a Januay 12 speech. Indian military sources say India has secretly told the US and Britain that it will wait two weeks to see if international diplomatic pressure halts infiltration of Islamic militants into Indian territory. “This could be easily verified by monitoring (radio and telephone) intercepts”, says Mr Mehta.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will head to the region next week to try to defuse tensions. But India’s tough talk of war may create an environment into which the US and other Western nations may feel compelled to intervene and to seek lasting solutions to the Kashmir conflict. “This is the ultimate nightmare of India, to have the US meddling in this issue,” says Sumit Ganguly, a political scientist at University of Texas in Austin, and author of a book on Indo-Pakistani wars called “Unending Conflict”.
“There is a deep reservoir of suspicion among Indian intellectuals toward the US, because of its past alliance with Pakistan during the cold war.” “The question is, how do you get out of the present bind?” says Dr. Ganguly, the UT professor. “The Indians cannot afford to back down without looking silly to the Pakistanis.” KK Nayyar, a retired rear admiral, agrees. “Conventional war is inevitable, and the later it takes place, the fiercer will be the campaign and the higher the death toll.”