The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sceptic Delhi sticks to peace path

New Delhi, May 20: The home ministry believes there has been no concrete evidence to suggest that Pakistan has changed its policy of bleeding India through militant violence despite its apparent eagerness to clasp Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “hand of friendship”.

“So far, there have been no signs to convince us of a change of heart in Islamabad. There have been no intercepts of Pakistani handlers asking the various terror modules they have set up to curb their activities and stop violence in Kashmir,” said a source in the ministry.

This scepticism reflects the mood in North Block, the seat of the home ministry, where there is continuous monitoring of the situation in Pakistan as well as in Kashmir.

The routine violence in Kashmir, where militants in separate incidents today slit open throats of two women, killed another civilian and a jawan, is making India increasingly sceptical of Pakistan’s intentions.

“Privately, I think this is just a farce,” said an official, wondering whether Pakistan really wanted to live in peace with India. “Pakistan is again leading us up the garden path. There may be a momentary fall in the level of violence, but unless Pakistan overhauls its strategy of bleeding India in a low-intensity war, where costs are minimal, the situation cannot change.”

Yet, the political leadership in Delhi is bent on giving peace another chance. “Engagement with Pakistan is part of an overall strategy to stop terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and other areas of the country,” a home ministry official explained.

The official admitted infiltration of militants from across the border had come down slightly over the past few weeks. “But there are always ups and downs in people coming in. There could be a number of reasons, including the operations being carried out by our security forces in Kashmir against militants.”

But as for “significant signs of change from the other side”, the official said they were “yet to see” any but added it was not easy for President Pervez Musharraf to change a policy that has continued for over a decade.

“This policy, they believe, can pay them rich dividends and is also cost effective. We have to wait and see if Pakistan has taken a strategic decision to stop covert activities in India. There could be a temporary lull in violence, which has not happened so far, but there is still time for a shift,” the source said.

At heart, few in the home ministry believe that Pakistan will stop helping terrorist groups and providing them with an efficient structure to conduct strikes in Kashmir.

After September 11, 2001, when Musharraf chose to side with the US in Washington’s war against terror, he had antagonised many hardliners as well as ordinary Muslims who were shocked that the government sided with the “infidel” against a Muslim neighbour.

Pakistan’s leaders, sources say, would not want to risk antagonising these elements again.

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