The tenuous India-Pakistan peace process has come under the weight of domestic political pressures as the poll-bound Manmohan Singh government is cautiously calibrating its response to the killing of five Indian soldiers in the Poonch sector on Monday midnight.
It is one of the worst incidents since India and Pakistan signed the ceasefire pact in 2003. New Delhi treads cautiously, waits for a full assessment by the defence ministry, to calibrate the next move after summoning the deputy high commissioner to lodge protest against the incident.
The ambush took place even as two sides were finalising the dates for the secretary-level talks and preparatory works being done for the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York in the last week of September.
Pakistan, however, has staunchly denied any role in the incident. With the incident raising a political rage, the government will be walking a tightrope on talks with Pakistan faced with the general elections next year.
However, so far India hasn't squarely blamed Pakistan army for the incident, and defence minister AK Antony stuck to a formulation : "The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily-armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan army uniform."
"The talk process must not be derailed. There are elements both sides who want to derail the talks process", said former career diplomat MK Bharakumar, who headed Pakistan desk in one of the most tense periods in bilateral ties.
But the talk process, always prone to accidents came under rough weather with an aggressive opposition targeting the government. Some experts have also called for government toughening its stand. "The government's response to the beheading of the soldiers was that of inaction. This has emboldened Pakistan army," says strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellany.
In his opinion "unilateral political concession by India, like de-linking the terror from talks" and it's time such policy is changed. Though the role of Pakistan army is not pin-pointed yet, there are still doubts about whether they are keen on normalising ties with India.
Pakistan's India policy has always remained military-centric. The new Nawaz Sharif government has sent right feelers for normalsing the ties with India. But there have been doubts in the Indian establishment as to whether Pakistan army would be on board for Sharif moving fast on talks with India.