India - Foreign policy

India's relations with Pakistan, the Kashmir problem, and nuclear policy continue to be related international concerns. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the countries achieved their independence. Serious conflict resumed in December 2001 when five men, allegedly Muslim militants, armed with guns and explosives, attacked the Indian Parliament. In a 40-minute battle, 12 people were killed, including the five terrorists. Although President Musharraf of Pakistan condemned the attack and denied any Pakistani involvement, he refused to take any blanket action against Muslim militant groups on his side of the border without proof of involvement. Pakistan had supported Muslim militant efforts in Kashmir in the past, calling members of such groups "freedom fighters." The conflict over ownership of Muslim-majority, Indian-administered Kashmir had gone on for over a decade, with more than 63,000 people killed in guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and counterinsurgency in the remote border region.

By the end of December 2001, India and Pakistan were positioning hundreds of thousands of troops and a vast array of weapons along their common border. In its 1998 nuclear testing actions, India had clearly demonstrated a means to deliver nuclear warheads with medium-range missiles in any regional conflict. With Pakistan similarly armed, there has been heightened potential for nuclear warfare. Many experts considered the December 2001 India-Pakistan face-off to be the worst threat of nuclear weapons usage since the end of the Cold War. Vajpayee and Musharraf met in January 2002 as part of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit and took time to discuss the military standoff and acts of terrorism, but no agreement was made at that time.

Gradually, the hostilities eased, until a real thaw in relations appeared in May 2003. Vajpayee decided to seek his place in history with an effort at rapprochement with Pakistan. Full diplomatic and transport ties were to be renewed between the neighbors. The peace process was seen as Vajpayee's ultimate gamble — if successful, it could win votes from the opposition Congress Party, but possibly lose hardline RSS support for Vajpayee; if not successful it would be an indelible mark of the Prime Minister's ineffectiveness.U.S. pressure for a solution to the Kashmir problem was seen as a particular inspiration for Vajpayee's new eagerness for talks with Pakistan.

January 1999 marked India's renewal of its bilateral Transit Treaty with Nepal, which governs trade across the India-Nepal border and gives landlocked Nepal transit rights through Indian territory. April 2000 brought talks with China over border issues in the Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh regions, and in mid-2003 India sought a solution to disputes with China over the sovereignty of the Himalayan enclave of Sikkim, with a visit by Vajpayee to Beijing for high-level talks.

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