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Indo-Pak pursuits

Experts warn the proposed policy of hot pursuit may lead to military escalation and India?s diplomatic isolation, writes Meenakshi Iyer.
None | By Meenakshi Iyer, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 28, 2006 08:50 PM IST

It was in the year 2001 when the then Home Minister LK Advani had urged Indian forces to chase the terror infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Since then the top BJP brass has on and off maintained that the option of 'hot pursuit' is indeed a legitimate way of attacking terrorist camps outside a country.

Raking up the issue recently after Mumbai blasts, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said: "There has to be a hot pursuit of terrorists. There also has to be tough laws in place to tackle terrorism".

The policy never has been to the liking of Pakistan, which says that any "punitive" action by India on Pakistan would be paid back in the same coin.

"It is highly irresponsible for a sovereign state to be talking of hot pursuit options of striking another country to take out suspected, or should one say imagined, enemies," says leading daily The News International.

No such attacks are being mounted in India from Pakistani territory, so the question of hot pursuit...does not exist," says the Daily Times.

Further lashing out at the proposition, The Nation says: "Sanity requires that New Delhi stop making baseless allegations and accept Islamabad's offer to co-operate with India to root out terrorism".

In international law, the 'right of hot pursuit' on land is recognised as the chasing of armed infiltrators across international borders.

It was during the Vietnam war that the policy of hot pursuit came to fore. The Vietcong, an insurgent organisation, had set up its sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia from where they used to attack the American forces.

The Americans then exercised their right of hot pursuit to put an end to the sanctuaries of Vietcong.

Carrying on with the policy, the US forces now have entered deep into Iran and also Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

But as regards India, strategic experts world over say that thinking of a policy on similar lines will be a no-gainer and may lead to military escalation and diplomatic isolation.

"The jihadi terrorists do not indulge in hit-and-run raids like Vietcong. They come into India from different points through different routes and disperse in different directions after their terrorist strikes. They rarely escape directly into Pakistan," says B Raman of Chennai-based Institute for Topical Studies.

And definitely, the US and other nations will put diplomatic pressure on India to halt its operations probably because the world fora knows that if India launches a ground or air offensive, Pakistan might retaliate and its response may not be limited to one sector or a region.

"India should realise that any talks of pursuing suspected terrorists into Azad Kashmir or other parts of Pakistan will not only invite a commensurate reaction but will also be terrible for the region as a whole..." The News International says.

News reports in India, however, blame President Musharraf for raising non-issues that are outside the relevant spheres of debate.

And amid all this blame game, the dialogue process between the two neighbours has been hit hardest.

While The Nation says that a "conflagration between India and Pakistan…shall have a devastating impact on the region", the media here says that the peace process is "as good as dead".

"Although nobody in New Delhi or Islamabad is prepared to admit it, the peace process that Vajpayee initiated three years ago is as good as dead," writes Prem Shankar Jha in Hindustan Times. Jha adds that both the countries "must share the blame for it".

But despite all the pessimism, the media in both the countries opine that the nuclear-armed rivals must get back to the discussion table.

Reviving talks "will require a higher level of statesmanship than leaders at either side have displayed so far," writes Jha.

The Daily Times says, "Neighbours should devise a cooperative security mechanism" whereby they can pre-empt attacks like 11/7 and address issues in case such attacks materialise.

But despite the temporary setback to the India-Pakistan peace process in the aftermath of 11/7, the two neighbours get an immediate opportunity to reinvigorate bilateral relations at the South Asian conference in Dhaka, where foreign secretaries of both the countries are expected to meet.

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