India – aiming for diplomatic encirclement of Pakistan?

December 26, 2008

India is piling on the diplomatic pressure to convince the international community to lean on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist militants blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks.

According to the Times of India, “India has made it clear to the U.S. and Iran as well as Pakistan’s key allies, China and Saudi Arabia, that they need to do more to use their clout to pressure Pakistan into acting…” The Press Trust of India (PTI), quoted by The Hindu, said India had used a visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to Delhi to drive home the same message.

As discussed previously on this blog, in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India’s response was to look to the United States to put pressure on Pakistan. It also appears to have won some support from Russia, whose officials said publicly that the attacks were funded by Dawood Ibrahim, an underworld don who India says lives in Pakistan. China, Pakistan’s traditional ally, supported the United Nations Security Council in  blacklisting the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity accused of being a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba.  China’s Foreign Minister has also telephoned his counterparts in India and Pakistan urging dialogue, according to Xinhua

And to complete the tour of the permanent members of the Security Council, Britain blamed Pakistan-based militants for the Mumbai attacks, while France has also called on Pakistan to take action.

That’s a fairly broad consensus in favour of diplomatic pressure. There certainly seem to be more players more visibly involved than in 2001/2002 when India and Pakistan came to the brink of war over an attack on the Indian parliament that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants. You might therefore be tempted to argue that the diplomatic approach is working — and as long as this stands a chance, the prospects of military escalation are slim.

So what is going wrong? Despite the flurry of diplomatic activity, the military tensions are rising.  Pakistan has cancelled army leave and redeployed troopsThe Washington Post said thousands of troops were being redeployed from the Afghan border to the border with India.

Are the two countries’ armies simply making sure they are prepared, just in case the diplomatic efforts fail? Or is there more going on behind-the-scenes?

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