After a diplomatic pause enforced by India's lengthy election campaign, the country will soon have a new government after the ruling Congress party won an unexpectedly decisive victory. But analysts doubt the change of government will bring a significant change of heart in India towards Pakistan.
Despite Pakistan's offensive against the Taliban in the Swat valley, they say India has yet to be convinced the Pakistan Army is ready to crack down more widely on Islamist militants, fearing instead that it will selectively go after some groups, while leaving others like the Afghan Taliban and Kashmir-oriented groups alone. While Pakistan wants to resume talks broken off by New Delhi after last November's attack on Mumbai, India has said it wants Islamabad to take more action first against those behind the assault, which it blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is expected to remain in office after the Congress election victory, is now likely to come under pressure from the United States to soften India's stance towards Pakistan. The current stand-off leaves both countries vulnerable to a fresh flare-up of tensions which could torpedo Washington's plans for Pakistan and Afghanistan. It also complicates U.S. efforts to persuade the Pakistan Army to move troops from the Indian border to fight Taliban militants on its western border with Afghanistan.
Indian analysts are already arguing India must stand up to U.S. pressure to ensure its own interests are not sacrificed to those of the United States. In an editorial in the Times of India, Brahma Chellaney writes that U.S. policy -- very much focused on Afghanistan -- now runs counter to Indian interests. He argues that Kashmir-oriented groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba are of little interest to the United States. "Instead, Washington intends to goad New Delhi post-election to reduce border troop deployments, a step that would help Pakistan to infiltrate more armed terrorists into India."
It may not be entirely correct to say that Washington is not interested in the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group was cited in media reports as a suspect in the London underground bombings in 2005, potentially making it as much of a global threat as al Qaeda. But Chellaney's comments do underline a traditional suspicion in the region -- both in India and Pakistan -- about what is seen as a ruthless U.S. focus on its own interests.