Beyond Terrorism

Updated: Jun 13 2002, 05:30am hrs
The hopeful signs of a reduction in infiltration across the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir had allowed New Delhi to declare the resumption of aerial travel facilities between Pakistan and India. New Delhis comprehensive strategy has begun to show results. But infiltration is only one part of the problem. What is fundamental to the issue is the permanent stoppage of cross-border terrorism. Washington has assumed responsibility for ensuring that Islamabad would do that. The visit of US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld to India and Pakistan should provide further assurances of more steps being taken by Pakistan to end its strategy of terrorism as state policy. In return, New Delhi would no doubt be willing to move further along the path to normalisation of relations with Islamabad. Meanwhile the US can help by providing appropriate technology and capabilities to monitor infiltration.

Rumsfeld is likely to reassure New Delhi about the commitment of the US to a deepening and expanding relationship with India. This will naturally be an important calculation with the policy makers in New Delhi in choosing their menu of options in dealing with the evolving situation. But the US should not expect an early draw down of military forces from their battle-ready positions. Meanwhile, there is a range of policy options available to further build Indo-US relations which require regular high-level attention. And these should not be caught in the maelstrom of the war scares and the battle against terrorism. Defence co-operation is one of the key areas for strengthening bilateral relations. But perhaps more important is the continued US support to Indias economic, technological and industrial development. It is time to get the roadblocks out of the way.

But the US also needs to recognise that it has done grave injustice and damage to India and its image in many ways by its advisory to its citizens to leave the country. The dangers that apparently prompted this move actually emanate from Pakistans frequent and irresponsible rattling of its nuclear sabre. Pentagon regrettably damaged the situation further by the timing of the release of its estimates of casualties due to a possible nuclear exchange. But it remained rather quiet on the question of how such a war would start, and who would be responsible. It did not seem to have included Indias no-first-use doctrine into account. But more important, US pressures, however inadvertent, on our economic activities because of cross-border terrorism and nuclear threats by a third party should not be allowed to come in the way of Indo-US relations. Rumsfeld would have done great service to the cause of that relationship if steps were taken to restore a more relaxed people-to-people relationship by removing the adverse advisory at the earliest.

(This editorial from The Indian Express has been edited for space)