Upping the ante in Kashmir

September 18, 2008

Is New Delhi sending a signal to Pakistan by deploying its top strike warplanes in the Kashmir region?

It could just be a routine move to help pilots operate the nuclear-capable Su-30 aircraft  , codenamed Flanker by NATO, in another environment, but the timing is intriguing.

Indian air force Su-30 planes 

Ties between India and Pakistan have been fraught in recent months beginning with the breach of a five-year ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir, the Indian embassy attack in Kabul in July and then bombs in Indian cities including New Delhi last weekend.

There is also trouble inside Kashmir with huge protests against Indian rule, further testing ties.

So why would New Delhi chose this moment to move a few of Su-30s forward from their base in Pune in western India ?

Indian analyst  Major General Ashok Mehta says this was a message to Pakistan to keep its hands off Kashmir.

Some people are reading an even deeper meaning. Stratfor says that besides reminding Pakistan of its superior air power, the Indians are sending Islamabad a message that continued Islamist support to Islamist militant proxies in India will not go unanswered. The Association of Intelligence Professionals says New Delhi may have run out of patience.

A part of the Srinagar-Leh highway

Does that sound familiar? Almost echoing what the United States is telling the Pakistans on the western border that any more support for militants operating in Afghanistan would be severely dealt with, which in any case they have begun to do.

So is this the pincer movement that some in Pakistan have long feared ? A strategic encirclement with a restless America on its western border and India flexing its muscles in the east?

“By sending half a dozen Sukhois to the Pakistani border, India may be hinting that it can choose to launch cross-border raids across the Line of Control in Kashmir while the United States is busy pounding jihadist targets inside Pakistani territory in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, thereby putting Pakistan in a most uncomfortable spot,” says Stratfor.

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