The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Massacre blow to middle path

New Delhi, March 26: It may still take a few more days for the American troops to reach Baghdad and get rid of Saddam Hussein, but India’s policy on Iraq seems to be coming off the hinges already.

Delhi’s muted response to the US invasion of Iraq, in an attempt to deny Pakistan an edge in its dealing with the Bush administration, has been jeopardised by Sunday night’s massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pundits.

India seems to have landed in a soup — military action against Pakistan at this juncture threatens to ruin its relation with the US, while failure to deal with the situation will not only tarnish the country’s “tough image”, but also raise doubts about its ability to safeguard national interests.

South Block has given out clear signals to Washington and other key world capitals that it may be difficult for the Indian leadership to maintain status quo in South Asia if such Pakistan-sponsored terrorist activities continue at regular intervals.

Condemning the “senseless and brutal killings” on March 23, Pakistan’s National Day, the foreign ministry said in a statement issued this evening: “No cause, no religion, no so-called struggle justifies such inhuman acts.”

“The pattern, methodology and the nature of targets of these acts of terror are all too familiar and, therefore, the culpability of Pakistan is all too clear,” the statement added.

Predictably worried about a tough Indian response, the US is making all efforts to assure India that it has not given up on the global war against terrorism and Washington will continue to put pressure on Pakistan to stop cross-border-terrorism in Kashmir.

What US secretary of state Colin Powell had told foreign minister Yashwant Sinha on Monday was today repeated by American ambassador Robert Blackwill to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Blackwill met Advani this afternoon to gauge the Indian mood following the Kashmir carnage and told him the US was doing everything within its power to bring an end to terrorist acts in the Valley and elsewhere in the country.

The assurances notwithstanding, questions are now being raised on how prudent India’s decision to adopt a “middle path” approach on Iraq was.

The pro-US sections within the Indian establishment have been arguing in favour of a moderate response from Delhi on Washington’s armed action. They have repeatedly said India’s interest should be safeguarded by refraining from being too critical of the US in order to prevent Pakistan from getting an upper hand while dealing with Washington.

“We want to avoid a situation where the US starts pushing in a big way to internationalise the Kashmir issue,” a senior Indian leader had said recently.

However, the US state department’s call for resuming the stalled India-Pakistan dialogue indicates that Delhi’s policy has not been very effective so far.

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