Both before and during the visit of President Clinton, the Indian government went out of its way to reassure the world that South Asia was not on the brink of war, let alone a nuclear war. Atal Behari Vajpayee made what amounted to a public commitment to this effect at the brief joint press conference he held with President Clinton on March 21; and President Narayanan pooh-poohed the idea of war in his welcome speech at the Rashtrapati Bhavan banquet the same night. The message that the government thus strove to convey to the US government was that India would fight cross-border terrorism the way it had fought the Kargil war, that is, entirely within Indian territory.
Unfortunately Vajpayee forgot one crucial difference between Kargil and the Valley: the Kargil heights are uninhabited but Kashmir valley is not. Since last August, when there was a quantum jump in the level of cross-border terrorism and related violence in Kashmir, the people have been brutalised in a way that even they had never known before. The police firing at Anantnag on Monday last week vividly highlights the price they have been paying.