The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Neither any great success nor abject failure marked the last one year of India’s foreign policy and diplomacy. Indeed, the year was characterized by uncertainty, and it can only be hoped that there will be greater clarity in India’s external policy in the new year. As has been the case for many years now, it was Pakistan and New Delhi’s relations with Islamabad that dominated India’s foreign policy in 2002. The year witnessed the biggest mobilization of the Indian armed forces since the 1971 war. This mobilization was in response to the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament for which terrorist organizations sponsored by Pakistan were responsible. It did seem on at least two occasions last year that India was prepared to go to war to prevent Pakistan’s further sponsorship of terrorism. What prevented the outbreak of the hostility in January and then in May, after the attack on the army camp near Jammu, and what were the gains from the policy of coercive diplomacy will continue to be analysed by the historians of the future. But it is clear that there were three factors which ultimately stopped India and Pakistan from going to war for the fourth time. First, the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides. New Delhi exercised greater caution than it would have, had there been no nuclearization of south Asia. Second, Pakistan did take some steps, piecemeal in retrospect, to clamp down on terrorist organizations. Mr Pervez Musharraf made a significant speech in January, in which he assured the world that Pakistan’s territory will not be used to support terrorists against any country. With the benefit of hindsight, these promises did not translate into reality, but they were able to at least buy Pakistan time at critical moments. Finally, the international community played a key role in diffusing the tension.

The United States of America, particularly, was active in putting pressure on Pakistan to stop its support for terrorism and also pleaded with India to exercise restrain. India’s relationship with the US demonstrated a continued fluctuation. While there is much that binds New Delhi and Washington, India continues to be concerned about Washington’s relationship with Pakistan. At the end of the year, New Delhi’s relationship with Pakistan had far from normalized and yet the chances of war breaking out are also slim. The US continues to be a key partner for India. But it remains to be seen if the new year can bring about a dramatic change in the equation between Washington, New Delhi and Islamabad. The prospects of real peace emerging in the region, how- ever, remain distant.

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