US sends crackdown message to Pak
PM’s patience at break-point
Coded question thickens plot
Rhetoric rolls, not military machine
Calcutta Weather

 
 
US SENDS CRACKDOWN MESSAGE TO PAK 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Dec. 15: 
The Bush administration has asked Pakistan to arrest leaders of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e- Mohammed to assuage Indian anger on the attack on Parliament.

Sources privy to the administration’s response to the terrorist outrage said General Pervez Musharraf is being prodded by Washington through diplomatic channels.

The administration’s objective is to act in America’s interest of lowering tension in South Asia at a time when the fight to capture or kill Osama bin Laden is credited by the Pentagon to be in its most crucial phase.

American officials in New Delhi are understood to have communicated to South and North Blocks the Bush administration’s decision to urge Musharraf to act against the two terrorist outfits.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has opted for patience and will see whether Washington’s counsel will prevail in Islamabad. Delhi’s next step will depend on whether Pakistan actually restrains militants operating across the border.

Even as the administration is prodding Islamabad to act, General Francis Taylor, the state department’s coordinator for counter-terrorism, is preparing to go to India.

The visit by Taylor, who earlier headed the Air Force Office of Special Investigations dealing with counter-intelligence and major criminal matters, will be within the framework of the Indo-US joint working group on counter-terrorism.

The entity that he heads is one of the two agencies whose help was promised to India by President George W. Bush in his phone conversation with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee after the attack on Parliament.

State department spokesman Richard Boucher acknowledged that India had not taken up the offer of FBI assistance “at this point”.

In a public reaction that pleased Delhi, Boucher continued to stick to the state department’s initial line that those who attacked Parliament should be brought to justice.

“The Indian government, as we understand, is still investigating the situation. So first and foremost, we think that they will try to figure out, to find out who was responsible for these horrible acts, and take appropriate action on that. That is what we look to them to do. I think it would be premature for us to start reacting in any other way until they have done that,” he said.

Such a public response still falls far short of the virtual endorsement by the Bush administration of Israeli actions against Palestinians.

The US today went so far as to veto an innocuous UN Security Council resolution affirming the “essential role” of the Palestinian Authority.

Underlying such double standard on the part of America is a deep division within the Bush administration on how to go about dealing with the situation in South Asia after Thursday’s violence.

There are many powerful voices in the White House, the state department and other agencies favouring expediency and US national interest above morality or principles.

These voices will continue to be raised during debates with the administration in favour of asking India for restraint in Kashmir and across the Line of Control (LoC).

Musharraf has this week provided a shot in the arm to those in Washington who favour expediency by virtually handing over Jacobabad air base in Sindh province to the US and withdrawing all but a handful of Pakistani liaison officers from the base.

   

 
 
PM’S PATIENCE AT BREAK-POINT 
 
 
FROM SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Santiniketan, Dec. 15: 
The shadow of terrorism fell on Santiniketan, Tagore’s “abode of peace”, as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used his convocation address to accuse terror-exporting countries of converting religious schools into “factories of terror”.

Later in Calcutta, Vajpayee said India has reached the limits of its tolerance.

Indian troops could have crossed the border during the Kargil war, but “we exercised restraint and only snatched back our land. We have reached the limits of our tolerance. We will face terrorism with all our might,” the Prime Minister said. He said India has launched a diplomatic mission to garner support for the campaign against terror.

Vajpayee’s visit to Santiniketan bore the scars of Thursday’s attack on Parliament. The text of his speech was hastily amended and printed at the Raj Bhavan press in Calcutta and the ceremonial handing over of saptaparnis to students passing out of Tagore’s university was skipped, generating ill will .

Without naming Pakistan, the Prime Minister, the chancellor of Visva-Bharati University, spoke of September 11 and December 13 in the same vein. “We saw it (the effects of terrorism using religion as a mask) on September 11 and we have seen it again on December 13,” he said.

But the prime target of his tirade against terrorism — Visva-Bharati old-timers could not recall any chancellor’s speech being loaded with so much political rhetoric — remained Pakistan.

“Before the terrorists’ hands are trained to kill, their minds are trained to hate,” Vajpayee said. “Its promoters in our neighbourhood have even turned schools meant for religious education into factories of terror,” he added.

The Prime Minister said he knew of “other appropriate ways” to tackle terrorism. Admitting that he was constrained to think of “other ways” on the campus of Tagore’s university, Vajpayee reasoned: “They (terrorists and their sponsors) are beyond the pale of humanity.”

But the speech was not the only way terror stalked the chancellor to the university; the procedure involved in getting the speech booklets to Santiniketan revealed how peace was the last thing on Vajpayee’s mind even in the “abode of peace”.

The booklets, in a deviation from the practice of being printed at Santiniketan, were produced at the Raj Bhavan press, officials said. “The Prime Minister himself got into the act of incorporating major changes in the speech,” a varsity official said.

Officials said the booklets were in “real danger” of arriving late. They finally reached Santiniketan in time in a helicopter with Vajpayee and were distributed a few minutes into the programme.

   

 
 
CODED QUESTION THICKENS PLOT 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA
 
New Delhi, Dec. 15: 
Indian intelligence agencies have intercepted a coded message from across the border questioning the timing of the attack on Parliament.

The agencies suspect that the message was sent by Inter-Services Intelligence “handlers” of the Lashkar-e-Toiba to militants operating in Kashmir.

The intercepted message has one intriguing question: “Was this essential at this juncture?”

There is apprehension that the message could have been deliberately flashed to prove Islamabad’s contention that it had no hand in the ham-handed attack on Parliament.

However, if the message is genuine, it could mean that Pakistan’s military establishment is losing its hold over the militant outfits, which India claims, have been nurtured and sponsored to wage a “proxy war”.

Advocates of this version point out that President Pervez Musharraf risked more losses than gains if it was proved that his regime had sponsored the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament when international opinion is hostile to any help extended to terrorists.

The US action against the Taliban could give India legitimacy to hit Pakistan on the grounds of nurturing terrorism. A beleaguered Musharraf, facing hostility from extremists at home, is unlikely to wish to take on India at the moment. In fact, he has been sending clear signals to A.B. Vajpayee of his desire to renew talks with India.

However, the mood in India is not for talks. The effort now is to nail Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism. All resources of the investigating agencies are being put out to fit the bits into a plausible picture, which can be presented as evidence against Pakistan.

Defence minister George Fernandes said in Patna the government has “convincing evidence” to prove that the Lashkar was backed by the ISI in the Parliament strike.

L.K. Advani today called a meeting in North Block to review the investigation. It was attended by home secretary Kamal Pande and Intelligence Bureau director K.P. Singh.

Officials said the probe is progressing on the back of clues left behind by the militants themselves. Working backwards from these, Delhi police have picked up two persons from Sopore in north Kashmir.

The police feel that the arms and explosives used in the attack were smuggled into the capital in the arrested duo’s apple trucks. The two have been brought to Delhi by a special plane.

“We have arrested two youths with identical names. One is a software engineer,” said a police officer. Two others have been detained for questioning, adds our correspondent in Srinagar.

Delhi police picked up 17 more people from the capital in connection with the attack.

   

 
 
RHETORIC ROLLS, NOT MILITARY MACHINE 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, Dec. 15: 
Despite the warnings to Pakistan and the use of strong language by politicians, strategists are still not convinced that the military option to strike across the Line of Control in the wake of the attack on Parliament will be exercised in a hurry.

In any case, the decision to enter into an armed conflict is political and not military.

Defence minister George Fernandes said in Patna today that “a lot of thinking” was on to work out operations to strike at militant bases. For about two years now, India has been talking of some 90-odd terrorist training camps in Pakistan. Till such time as it manages to convince the international community, it will be difficult to win support for the stand that these are legitimate targets. And, without legitimate targets, the armed forces cannot have a brief for military operations like hot pursuit and/or aerial strikes.

In the two days since the firing in Parliament, too, there is no military signal that units crucial to an operation are on the move. Armoured units have not moved closer to the border. Neither have aircraft shifted bases nor have there been intensified sorties for recce.

Military strategists in both India and Pakistan presume that in any case there is practically no “element of surprise” in a conflict between the two countries. For them, the situation even when battles are not actually raging, continues to be one best described as “no war, no peace”.

The strategy of increasing the pressure on militants without crossing the LoC — essentially the strategy that was also used in Kargil — therefore continues to be persisted with.

“For reasons other than military we did not cross the LoC. It is not just a matter of going across the LoC and liquidating a camp. Israel has not been able to eliminate camps of the Hamas for years and years and now they have had to send tanks into Ramallah and even target Arafat’s headquarters,” says retired air chief marshal S.K. Kaul.

“Theoretically, we can go and hit the terrorist camps. That is the sort of thing that the US has been doing and Israel has been doing. If such tactics hold good for them, why should it not hold good for us? In war, when the time comes to strike, you must strike hard. But there has to be a calculus on what could be the Pakistani response,” said Kaul.

Such calculus will take into account the consequences of increasing militarisation in South Asia. With the Afghan war moving to Tora Bora, Pakistan can practically get involved in war on two fronts.

Indian forces engaged in counter insurgency operations in Kashmir and the Northeast will also be under increased pressure. Even in Nepal and Sri Lanka, armies are engaged in internal wars. This is the setting in which the argument of hawks in the Indian establishment — who advocate an offensive strategy — will have to be weighed.

As defence strategists set about planning a response to the attack on Parliament, some of the thoughts — and Fernandes said in Patna today that a lot of thinking was currently on — will be on where Islamabad’s “defensive threshold” ends. In Kargil, the objective was clearly defined — eject intruders from territory. In that sense it was a limited, conventional war that did not take the offence into areas under Pakistani control.

The Kargil example has been used by experts to justify that space still exists for a limited war despite both India and Pakistan having gone nuclear. This is also an idea that serving military officers favour. Most recently, it was voiced by the chief of the army’s northern command at a seminar in Jammu. But even the “limits” of a limited war cannot be defined.

“If you want to pursue the policy of hot pursuit, you have to be prepared for an all-out war,” says retired brigadier A.C. Prem, author and analyst on military affairs. “Our strike corps can go deep into Pakistan — maybe 30 or 40 kilometres. Then there is what is called ‘limit of no further penetration’ and beyond that point, is the nuclear option. I have no doubt that in Pakistan’s case, the level of nuclear threshold is much lower. The second option is to devastate the enemy’s nuclear installations and send in the land forces. I am not sure any of these two options can actually be exercised. In the long run, it might be better to do unto Pakistan what they do to us — disintegrate the state from within.”

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Max: 26.8°C (0)
Min: 15.5°C (+1)

Relative humidity

Maximum: 94%
Minimum: 50%

Rainfall

Nil

Today:

Mainly clear sky. Possibility of morning mist. Minimum temperature likely to be around 15°C

Sunset: 4.50 pm

Sunrise: 6.15 am/dt>    
 

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