Misreading Musharraf

                   By Jim Hoagland
                   Thursday, May 23, 2002; Page A33

                   India and Pakistan are three to four
                   weeks from a foreseeable war that
                   the United States has done too little
                   to prevent. By misreading Gen.
                   Pervez Musharraf, the Bush
                   administration has contributed to a
                   dangerous confrontation between
                   South Asia's two nuclear-armed

                   Troops the two sides have
                   deployed in and around the
                   Kashmir theater total 1 million.
                   They balance on a razor's edge.
                   The winter snows that immobilized
                   them for four months are gone.
                   Extreme heat and then monsoon conditions will arrive in a month or so in the
                   region, limiting India's logistical capabilities and campaign predictability.
                   India's politically faltering government faces a choice of going to war before
                   that moment -- or enduring the embarrassment of backing down from a costly
                   and seemingly pointless mobilization.

                   India of course does not have to wait until the last moment and give up the
                   element of surprise. Another incident in Kashmir like the May 14 guerrilla
                   attack on defenseless Indian women and children in the city of Jammu could
                   easily trigger immediate Indian retaliation.

                   "The country is ready for war," Indian officials say confidently to diplomats.
                   Pakistan's tightly monitored press is featuring usually taboo reports of
                   deployments of troops and weapons such as surface-to-surface Shaheen

                   Musharraf's aim presumably is not a full-scale war. He cannot conquer India.
                   But the Pakistani military ruler has shown in the past two months that when it
                   comes to the half-century conflict over Kashmir, he is an extraordinary
                   risk-taker. He has dared India to fight. And he has just as boldly reneged on a
                   promise to the Bush White House to shut down terror camps in Kashmir. The
                   two steps are part and parcel of his brinksmanship.

                   After internal debate, the U.S. intelligence community now accepts that
                   Musharraf allowed the 50 to 60 guerrilla camps in Kashmir that harbor some
                   3,000 fighters to come back to life in mid-March after two months of
                   quiescence. Two other Musharraf promises -- to prevent cross-border
                   terrorism from Pakistan or Pakistani-controlled territory, and to dismantle
                   permanently Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalist organizations that preach
                   violence -- have also withered as American attention has been focused on the
                   Middle East.

                   "The debate about what is going on has been settled," says one U.S. official
                   involved in the contentious discussions here about Musharraf's abandoned
                   pledge to cut off help and training that this intelligence services and military
                   give to terrorists in Kashmir and India. "The rate of infiltration into
                   Indian-occupied Kashmir is above the rate of a year ago. What is still being
                   debated is Musharraf's intention. Is he unable or unwilling to prevent what is
                   happening? And what do we do about either case?"

                   The effect of Secretary of State Colin Powell's intense and successful
                   diplomatic intervention last winter to ease tensions has been washed away by
                   U.S. inattention and failure even to acknowledge Pakistan's subsequent
                   backsliding. "America is either with us or with the terrorists," Omar Abdullah,
                   a rising star in India's political system, said mockingly in Parliament last week
                   as details of the grisly Jammu raid spread.

                   The attack on an Indian military family housing area by three guerrillas
                   identified in the Indian media as Pakistani citizens could hardly have been
                   more inflammatory. Wives and children of Indian soldiers were butchered. A
                   2-month-old baby was machine-gunned to death. By coincidence or design,
                   the attackers went to the very limit of the Indian military's tolerance.

                   Musharraf's own assessment of the consequences of such acts remains
                   murky. He may believe that India does not have the will to attack. Or he may
                   believe that Washington needs him too much in the war on al Qaeda and the
                   Taliban to let India come after him. U.S. officials have given him grounds for
                   thinking that.

                   Or Musharraf may be quite willing to see limited clashes begin in hopes of
                   provoking international intervention that will aid his position in Kashmir, much
                   as Yasser Arafat seeks to draw outside powers into his conflict with Israel.

                   In 1971, Pakistan launched attacks along India's western frontier that had no
                   chance of military success. Pakistan's military rulers, humiliated by India's easy
                   conquest of their forces in the eastern territory that was to become
                   Bangladesh, went to war in a desperate and forlorn bid for outside
                   intervention to save them from defeat or at least from disgrace.

                   Managing Musharraf and Pakistan's role in Operation Enduring Freedom is a
                   tricky task. But Powell and his chief aides have devoted too little time and
                   energy to that demanding job since mid-February. They have let events drag
                   them back in belatedly to separate two nuclear-armed antagonists.

                   Pakistan helped create and foster al Qaeda and the Taliban. It has long used
                   terror as an instrument of state policy to try to break India's hold on
                   two-thirds of Kashmir that New Delhi controls. Confronted with anything less
                   than unrelenting pressure, Musharraf will keep on gambling, up to the brink
                   and -- in a matter of days from now -- perhaps beyond.

                                 © 2002 The Washington Post Company