Hitherto, a friendly government in Kabul allowed Islamabad the luxury of manning only the hostile borders with India in the east. But America's war against terror has, as one report points out, pushed General Headquarters to deploy nearly 50,000 regular Pakistan army troops and another 1,50,000 paramilitary soldiers in the west, in the hope of blocking Al Qaeda recruits from slipping in. Couldn't India exploit this situation to its advantage?
Yet Washington's interest in the region is precisely the reason why most in Pakistan feel Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's tough talk post-December 13 attacks couldn't have been more poorly timed. Reason: Washington simply can't allow an Indo-Pak war to complicate its engagement in Afghanistan. Nor can India, it is believed, defy international opinion to attack Pakistan at this juncture. No wonder former foreign secretary Najmuddin A. Shaikh says, "Islamabad should continue to play it cool and ignore the jingoism emanating from New Delhi."