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Mortar gun ‘salute to Powell’ could have unpredictable fallout

SRINAGAR Oct 17 (NNI): That the ‘punitive’ action in Jammu-Poonch sector was aimed primarily at the US Secretary of State Gen Collin Powell is to state only the obvious.

Indian army pounded Pakistan positions only a few hundred kilometers away from Islamabad where Gen Powell was advising restraint along the line of control. This bold politico-military initiative seemed to be a leaf straight from Israel’s book of defiance, reports Greater Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought at least three and a half regular wars including Kargil apart from prolonged bouts of shelling along the borders. Never before has either side announced initiation of action as has in this case been done by the Defence authorities.

The action, incidentally, came close on the heels of the Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh’s ‘no hot pursuit’ promise on the same day as he handed back additional Defence portfolio to ‘good friend’ George Fernandes.

But, George Fernande’s announcement of his return to his job after overpowering the Tehelka ‘jinn’ could be more than a mere ‘local action’. Its fallout in troubled Pakistan and in fact the entire region could be unpredictable, to say the least.

General Musharraf is already under pressure from pro-Taliban and other religious parties for his decision to go alongwith the US led assault on Afghanistan.

The action in Mendhar and Akhnoor could provide further grist to the mill of Jehadi forces whose only acceptable and acknowledged way of dealing with India as with US, is armed engagement.

The action also comes at a time when President Musharraf has become the first Pakistani leader to denounce the attack in Kashmir as a blatant terrorist act. It also follows the telephonic initiative from Pakistan to urge Prime Minister Vajpayee to restart the Agra process.

By all accounts, analysts say, the Monday night action is not a knee-jerk reaction. With the kind of world overview available through informed comments almost round the clock over media and the flurry of diplomatic activity in which New Delhi has been very much involved, it would be safe to conclude that the ‘punitive action’ was not merely punitive (incidentally Pakistan acknowledged only one civilian death). It must be a part of the reaction that this country has thought up as a response to the most dangerous scenario the world has ever witnessed between WTC destruction and Anthrax Mail. And, being that should make it safer as its authors must have taken all its pros and cons into account, including the additional heat it could generate for Musharraf, a prospect that could bring Taliban closer home.

Going by the rhetoric, cruise missiles, Tomhawks and rockets that dangerously fill the air of the region, the "US ally Musharraf" could in days to come transform from the hero of Agra to an Indian agent for not responding to our `punitive action’.

On the other hand Musharraf himself to unite a fractious nation behind him once again may use it. Anti-India war cries sound sweeter in the region than US baiting. And, that particular possibility could be music to Americans while they are ‘smoking out’ Osama Bin Laden. And the ‘21 gun salute to Gen Powell’, from our out posts at Akhnoor and Mendhar may have a political fall out rather than military.—NNI

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