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Amid ongoing dispute between Archrivals, Pakistan says India is Lying on Surgical Strikes

There have been several calls for India, South Asia’s largest country, to explore the possibility of forging a regional forum that could exclude Pakistan

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FILE - Indian army soldiers keep guard on top of a shop along a highway on the outskirts of Srinagar, Sept. 29, 2016. VOA

The latest dispute between archrivals India and Pakistan centres on whether the Indian army took out several suspected terror camps just across the volatile border in Kashmir. While India claims its special forces carried out preemptive “surgical strikes” last week, Islamabad is adamant that they did not cross the line of control into Pakistan.

The truth may be hard to ascertain in the remote, Himalayan region where the two armies have long faced off and where bouts of heavy cross-border firing is not unusual.

An Indian Border Security Force soldier patrols near the India-Pakistan international border area at Gakhrial boder post in Akhnoor sector, about 48 kilometers from Jammu, India, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA
An Indian Border Security Force soldier patrols near the India-Pakistan international border area at Gakhrial boder post in Akhnoor sector, about 48 kilometers from Jammu, India, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA

What is certain is that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signaled a more assertive posture in dealing with Pakistan following an attack on an Indian army post in Kashmir that killed 20 soldiers on September 18. New Delhi blamed the attack on Pakistan-based militants.

Tougher policy

Officials say in the coming days and weeks, India will explore more diplomatic and economic measures to put pressure on its neighbour and rival, who it has long accused of supporting cross-border attacks by Islamic militant groups.

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Analysts warn the tougher line carries the risk of an escalation of hostilities as it takes the South Asian rivals into “uncharted waters.”

The head of the strategic studies program at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, Harsh Pant, said the fundamental shift in India’s approach follows the failure of past policies after multiple terror attacks.

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“This time there was a real focus on making sure that Pakistan pays, not simply in terms of rhetoric, but real costs,” he said. “This is one of the few times when a more comprehensive strategy was adopted.”

Analysts say the army’s “surgical strikes” were a signal that India can retaliate. That is a reversal from its restraint in the past when fear of hostilities turning nuclear held India back. “The issue was India was losing its credibility in its conventional deterrent,” according to Pant.

Pakistan denies the Indian allegations of supporting militant groups mounting attacks in India and says the real problem is alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces in Indian Kashmir that have triggered unrest in the region.

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But blaming Pakistan-based groups for fomenting unrest, India has said it will isolate Pakistan diplomatically.

Summit canceled

The first casualty has been a South Asian summit that was canceled by Islamabad after five out of eight nations in the group, led by India, pulled out citing concerns about cross-border terror.

There have been several calls for India, South Asia’s largest country, to explore the possibility of forging a regional forum that could exclude Pakistan.

However, security analyst Bharat Karnad at New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research underlines the risk of such a strategy.

“You are in essence undermining the idea of reconciliation in the long term,” he cautioned. Pointing out that distancing Pakistan from South Asia is “physically, culturally” not possible, he said, “So you are going to create a real problem in trying to attempt something that is not practical.”

Economic measures considered

India is also looking at economic measures aimed at Pakistan. The prime minister is due to review the Most Favored Nation status that New Delhi granted Pakistan in 1996. That is unlikely to hurt Islamabad as direct trade between the two countries is small and most of the trade is in India’s favor.

The bigger pressure point is a 1960 Indus Water treaty that awarded most of the waters from three Himalayan rivers to Pakistan. India says it will explore all options including building hydroelectric dams along these rivers so that it can utilize its share, something that could potentially reduce the flow into Pakistan.

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That may not happen anytime soon as it would take years to build dams. But it has raised alarm in Islamabad, which says scrapping the treaty would be an act of war.

While India says it has no intention of ending the treaty, which has survived two wars and decades of bitter relations, analysts say the message New Delhi wants to send out is that it might now be willing to use tools never contemplated in the past.

The closer strategic ties that Prime Minister Modi has cultivated with the United States since taking office two years ago have also given India the confidence to contemplate tougher measures, according to analysts.

“He [Modi] recognized the fact that having good relations with America allows India greater strategic space to pursue certain policies vis-a-vis Pakistan,” says Pant.

Tensions have spiraled along the Kashmir border in recent days. Indian officials reported another attack on an Indian army camp Sunday night by six militants in north Kashmir. One border guard died and another was wounded. India has evacuated hundreds of border villages on its side and cross-border firing continues.

But in a signal that both sides want to reduce tensions, the National Security Advisers of the two countries spoke to each other Monday for the first time since tensions spiked in the last two weeks. (VOA)

Next Story

India-Russia Sign An Air Defense System Deal

Putin said that Russia places a top priority on its India relationship and the two countries had concurrent positions on key global issues.

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Russian S-400 air defense missile systems are on display during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. VOA

India has signed a deal worth more than $5 billion to buy five sophisticated air defense missile systems from Russia that could trigger sanctions by the United States.

The agreement for the purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems was sealed Friday in New Delhi as Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India and held a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Although the deal was not mentioned when the two leaders appeared before reporters, a joint statement after the talks said that the two sides welcomed the agreement.

The deal, said analysts, demonstrates that India is seeking a balance as it steadily grows strategic ties with Washington, but is unwilling to forgo its long-standing defense partnership with Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, VOA

Washington has warned that the purchase of the air defense system would be a “significant transaction” violating a U.S. law passed last year under which countries trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors face the threat of sanctions.

New Delhi, which does not want to jeopardize its growing ties with Washington, is optimistic about avoiding U.S. sanctions.

In talks with U.S. officials, India has stressed its need for the air defense system to strengthen its capabilities against the might of China, whose ambitions are moving New Delhi and Washington closer.

“If the U.S. thinks India is an important partner in the Indo Pacific, they will find a way out,” said political analyst Manoj Joshi at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, pointing out that India is not bound to follow U.S. law.

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Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, wikimedia commons

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, Jinnie Lee, said that the law is “not intended to impose damage to the military capabilities of our allies or partners.” She did not comment on the deal, but said that any waivers would be considered on a transaction by transaction basis.

U.S. officials have said there is no guarantee of a waiver from the Trump administration, which has imposed sanctions on China’s military for the purchase of the same system. The deal figured in discussions in New Delhi when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited India last month.

Indian Air Force Chief B.S. Dhanoa has said that the S-400 system would be a “booster shot” for the Indian air force. The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced long-range, surface-to-air missile system and can take down enemy aircraft from the ground.

India is the world’s largest purchaser of arms and Russia its biggest supplier. In recent years, the U.S. has also become a significant source, with purchases adding up to $15 billion over the past decade.

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Mr. Narendra Modi

Political analyst Joshi said the deal would help restore ties between India and Moscow on an even keel — relations between the Cold War allies had cooled somewhat in recent years as New Delhi’s ties with Washington blossomed. The contract for the air defense system is one of the largest handed out by India.

After the summit, Modi spoke of a “trusted” and “special and privileged partnership” with Moscow as he addressed reporters along with Putin.

“Russia has stood by India through time and has played a crucial role in India’s growth story,” he said.

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Putin said that Russia places a top priority on its India relationship and the two countries had concurrent positions on key global issues.

Eight agreements signed by the two countries include pacts for Moscow to build six nuclear power plants in India and cooperate with the Indian space agency in sending a manned mission to space. (VOA)