The world's largest democracy chooses a new government in an election beginning on Thursday, and given the fires burning next door in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the men and women who will rule New Delhi over the next five years will doubtless exert influence over the course of events.
Indeed, with the pain and anger over the Mumbai attacks of November still raw, the mood could hardly be tougher against Pakistan. Even shorn of the campaign rhetoric, the positions of both the ruling Congress and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party on Pakistan begin from common ground. No dialogue with Islamabad until it "dismantles the infrastructure of terrorism", both parties say in their manifestos.
New Delhi's continued refusal to resume dialogue or indeed to expand other links such as trade has caught Pakistan between a rock and a hard place, according to this piece in 2point6billion.com, a website tracking developments mainly in China and India. While Islamabad has repeatedly called for resumption of dialogue since the attacks, Delhi has refused to comply until it is assured that Pakistan will prosecute all those involved in the planning and operations.
Delhi maintains that it holds information garnered from satellite, cellular and other communications devices captured at the scene that lead to specific individuals that Pakistan has as yet failed to apprehend. Islamabad denies the charge and says it is doing everything in its power to cooperate.
The result is that the noose has tightened around Pakistan, exacerbating its already dire financial situation. Trade between Pakistan and India, which had been growing and was forecast to hit US$10 billion by 2010, has dwindled to close to zero over the past few months, with Pakistan feeling the brunt of this economic demise, says the website. Islamabad has already had to apply for a US$7.6 billion loan from the IMF in February and garnered an additional US$2.8 billion in military aid from the Obama administration just two weeks ago.