Indian troops have been given the green light for "limited punitive" action against targets inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a leading defense analyst said.
"All indications are that the armed forces have been given the go-ahead for limited punitive action against terrorist bases in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)," said Sridhar, a senior defense expert who recently retired from the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA).
Activists from the Akali Dal shout anti-Pakistan slogans with a poster of murdered U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl, during a protest in New Delhi May 21, 2002. The activists urged the government to retaliate over a bloody guerrilla raid in disputed Kashmir last week in which 34 people died has stroked tensions with Pakistan. REUTERS/Kamal Kishore
Founded by an act of parliament, the IDSA is an influential defense strategy think tank.
"A limited military action looks inevitable but it has also been made clear to the forces that this is not a war against the Pakistan army but against terrorists in PoK," Sridhar told AFP Tuesday.
Diplomats, however, believe India's leaders are still in a political rather than a military mindset and that much of the Indian war-mongering of the past week or so is aimed at pressuring Washington to put the squeeze on Pakistan to clamp down on religious militancy in Kashmir.
Washington on Monday urged the nuclear rivals to keep diplomatic channels open and confirmed Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage would soon visit South Asia.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, meanwhile, called on the rival powers to "exercise maximum restraint to avert a further escalation of tensions."
As part of the diplomatic flurry, US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill called on India's national security advisor Brajsh Mishra Monday evening to discuss the situation and reportedly asked India for "more time to restrain Pakistan."
French ambassador Bernard de Montferrand also called on Mishra, according to reports Tuesday.
Sridhar said while the Indian forces would "strike at a time and place of their choice," some targets had already been identified.
"The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) have built huge 300-400 bed dormitories in and around Muzaffarabad in PoK," he said.
"If some of these structures are destroyed, the message would be conveyed."
Both Let and JeM are Pakistan-based militant outfits and are blamed by India for most attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country.
The analyst said Pakistan was unlikely to retaliate and will only end up "increasing the intensity of shelling on the borders, abuse India and make noises at international fora."
Pakistan has already said it fears India is readying to attack "militant camps" in PoK.
Over the past few days, the government has taken a series of steps normally reserved for conflict scenarios. These include bringing the paramilitary forces in Kashmir under direct control of the army and similarly giving the navy the full command of the coast guards and merchant navy.
"This meets a key requirement of war-preparedness and this is a clear signal to Pakistan and the rest of the world that India means business," defense analyst Brahma Chellaney told the Hindustan Times.
And on Monday, the Indian Air Force appointed a hero of the 1965 war against Pakistan, Air Marshal A.R. Ghandhi, as the new Air Officer Commander-in-Chief of Western Air Command -- which controls air combat from Leh in Kashmir to Ganganagar in Rajasthan.
Asked why such steps were being taken, India's hardline Home Minister L.K. Advani reportedly told journalists Monday to read the "War Book" -- a classified document listing guidelines to be followed in the lead-up to war.
Earlier at a function, Advani said the government would have to change its current policy of combating militancy in Kashmir.
"The government is of firm belief that the way we are retaliating will have to be changed," he said.
© 2002 AFP