Indian Military Presence Along Pakistani Borders Counterproductive

February 26, 2002
In an interview published in the Feb. 24 edition of the daily ***Hindustan Times**, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandez said that there has been no change of what he called Pakistan's support of terrorism in Kashmir.

AFP quoted Fernandez as saying that India would not withdraw its forces from Pakistan's borders unless Islamabad accepted the two conditions set by New Delhi: the prevention of terrorist infiltration into Indian Kashmir and the repatriation of 20 terrorist suspects who India says have taken refuge in Pakistan.

Even though Fernandez did not bring up any new points, his insistence that Indian forces would remain on the borders with Pakistan could have a negative impact on the already deteriorating relations between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan has called for the withdrawal of military forces from the common borders so that calm could be restored to the region. This request, which is the first condition for improvement of relations between the two countries, has been supported at both regional and international levels.

However, the rejection of this request by India would surely give rise to suspicions in Pakistan that New Delhi is trying to take advantage of the internal situation in Pakistan in order to pressure Islamabad into accepting its conditions.

But the point is that as long as India keeps its military forces along the borders, Pakistan will not be able to take any steps towards improvement of bilateral relations. Apparently, New Delhi has not given due attention to the fact that the government of General Pervez Musharraf is not in a position to accept India's conditions. This is because Pakistan has categorically denied India's charges that it is not preventing the infiltration of militants into Kashmir, and also because the Indian request for repatriation of terrorist suspects has been met with a similar list from Islamabad. This means that any unilateral measure by Pakistan is ruled out in this regard.

In any case, the Indian defense minister's emphasis on keeping Indian military forces along borders with Pakistan will not help to improve relations between the two neighboring countries and will surely harm the interests of both sides.