Courtesy Reuters

Untangling India and Pakistan


As one of the world's longest-suffering victims of terrorism, India had high hopes for the U.S.-led campaign against global terrorists that emerged in the wake of the September 11 attacks. But well into the second year of this "war," and despite full support for U.S. actions, India finds itself harder put to counter the violence inflicted on it. At the same time, the source of that violence, Pakistan, seems better placed to get away with it.

This bizarre situation arises from the importance of Pakistan to the ongoing effort to secure Afghanistan. Pakistan joined the campaign against the Taliban, its erstwhile client, in part due to international pressure but also in part because Afghan extremists were swiftly becoming a threat to Pakistan's own security. It is of course an old Wild West custom for the sheriff to co-opt the gunslinger in hunting bigger outlaws -- and the Afghan campaign resembles nothing so much as a Wild West manhunt writ large. But problems arise when he who helps the good guys also keeps his ties with the bad ones. The military government of General Pervez Musharraf doubtless confronts severe obstacles in any effort to root out Islamic extremism on its own soil. Islamists carry weight in the country and are said to be beyond government control. In addition, the army feels an irresistible temptation to use terrorists in its campaign against India in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (referred to hereafter as Kashmir). As a result, Pakistan has sought to let what India calls cross-border terrorism in Kashmir continue, as though exempt from the international war against terror.

Whether with Islamabad's connivance or tacit approval or despite its genuine willingness to stop them, groups directly linked to Pakistan-based extremists have perpetrated ever more intolerable attacks against India, resulting in the crisis that almost led to war last year. The first outrage followed so hard on the heels of the attacks in the United States that

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