No government welcomed George W. Bush’s declaration of a "war against terror" last September more enthusiastically than India’s. And none, save perhaps Ariel Sharon’s, more zealously tried to implement the Bush Doctrine: identifying terrorism as the main, if not the sole, threat to security everywhere, equating terrorists with their supporters or sympathizers and fashioning a purely militarist approach to terrorism. The fruits of this effort are now in full, gory evidence along the India-Pakistan border and particularly on the Line of Control in Kashmir, where a million soldiers confront one another eyeball-to-eyeball for the sixth consecutive month, in the greatest military mobilization since World War II.
Menacingly, they are backed by nuclear weapons and various denominations of missiles and fast-flying aircraft. Missile flight times between their main cities are three to eight minutes. Pakistan, the weaker power in conventional armaments, has warned that it could use nuclear weapons. On May 30 its UN ambassador declared, "India should not have the license to kill with conventional weapons while Pakistan’s hands are tied."
The world is witnessing its gravest nuclear crisis in half a century, and Indian and Pakistani leaders are not doing enough to defuse it. Their forces have been on hairtrigger alert since a May 14 terrorist attack on military dependents near Jammu, for which Atal Behari Vajpayee’s right-wing government blamed Pakistan-sponsored "cross-border terrorism" in the Kashmir Valley. There is absolutely no doubt that Pakistan has supported separatist guerrillas and infiltrated violent jihadis into the valley over the past twelve years. But there is plenty of room for doubt about its post-September 11 involvement. India has not produced convincing evidence of this in the December 13 attack on its Parliament or subsequent incidents.
The Vajpayee government has long been keen to settle scores with Pakistan militarily rather than to explore diplomatic means. The events of September 11 offered it a unique opportunity to trap Washington in its antiterrorism rhetoric and recruit US support. The reasons for India’s conduct are largely domestic. They have to do with covering up grave lapses in Kashmir, where India has unleashed vicious repression against popular demands for autonomy and secession. Charges of "cross-border terrorism," however true, are played up to divert attention from such repression.