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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 17:13 GMT
India's war doubters
Indian soldiers
The build-up continued - despite calls for dialogue
By the BBC's Zubair Ahmed

The crisis after the Indian Parliament attack has revealed a noticeable dichotomy between the media and the masses.

If you believed the media, India and Pakistan were on the brink of all-out war.

Shiv Sena anti-Pak protest
Passions ran high in Delhi - if not everywhere else
Television audiences nightly waged a war of words against Pakistan, egged on by angry anchor persons.

Newspaper hawks urged the Indian Government to imitate Israel and launch strikes against Pakistani targets.

But arriving in Delhi just two days after the suicide attack on the Indian Parliament in December, one was struck by the lack of paranoia, disruptive security procedures and almost no panic.

Pragmatic position

Pakistan undoubtedly stood condemned, but few on the streets and in offices appeared really to believe that a fourth war with Pakistan would end what India calls cross-border terrorism.

Recruits
Eager young men volunteer to fight
Fewer still thought India could afford to go to war. And far from the capital, a more pragmatic India was speaking, if not the language of peace, at least that against war.

The man on the street in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and the eastern states of Bihar and Jharkhand, condemned Pakistan and Indian war-mongers in the same breath.

India, he said, would gain little and lose more by going to war.

Military view

The consensus of the politically na´ve was echoed by the militarily sophisticated as some senior retired officers of the Indian armed forces privately explained.

They said that Pakistan was no pushover and could not be treated as Israel did the Palestinian Authority or America did Afghanistan.

War was not an option, they said, because it was not in India's strategic interest.

Several regional leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Jharkhand privately suggested Indian strategy should rely on effective diplomatic engagement or disengagement, as the case may be.

The economics of war clearly preoccupied many.

School and university teachers in the populous, poverty-stricken states of Bihar and Jharkhand said they cared more about the salaries they hadn't been paid for months.

Shopkeepers feared war would hit sales.

Economists said war would be difficult to afford just a year after the Gujarat earthquake.

But the media continued its own war build-up, endlessly showing footage of soldiers along the border with Pakistan, tanks rolling out and villagers on the frontline leaving homes, fields and cattle.

The phoney war was still on.

See also:

07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Indians breathe sigh of relief
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Blair urges Kashmir dialogue
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
War moves spread fear on border
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