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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
India facing regional uncertainty
Shiv Sena protest
Hindu activists protest against Osama Bin Laden
By Ajoy Bose in Delhi

A fortnight after the attacks on America, India is struggling to adjust to the rapidly-changing regional environment that is emerging.

The growing bonhomie between General Musharraf and the Bush administration and the spotlight on him in the media has caused widespread dismay in India.

The immediate reaction of the Vajpayee government and large sections of the intelligentsia here to the atrocities unleashed in New York and Washington was a feeling of vindication.

India had long been complaining about attacks by Pakistani-sponsored militants in Kashmir - and their links with foreign Islamist groups.

After the attacks on America, there was great hope for international solidarity with India's stance against Pakistan on this issue, possibly even leading to the diplomatic isolation of Islamabad.

Tilt to Pakistan

But despite the government's prompt offer of Indian airspace and ground facilities to the emerging military campaign against Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Delhi's hopes were to be dashed.

Over the past two weeks, Washington has increasingly turned to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to track down Bin Laden and help launch a possible ground attack on the Taleban regime.

India fears Pakistan may get US to back Kashmir deal
The growing bonhomie between General Musharraf and the Bush administration and the spotlight on him in the media has caused widespread dismay in India.

Some commentators feel that by boosting the Pakistan Government, which Delhi accuses of sponsoring militant attacks in Kashmir, the US is adopting double standards in its war on terrorism.

Another concern is that the crucial role assigned to Pakistan by the US could lead to a tilt back towards Islamabad similar to that during the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Worries over Kashmir

And there is also the fear that General Musharraf may work out a deal on Kashmir with the Bush administration in return for services provided against Bin Laden and the Taleban.

However, foreign ministry officials - while admitting the complex nature of regional developments - are optimistic about future relations between India and the United States.

They point out that the two countries have in the past decade developed a strong and independent bilateral relationship which would not be impaired by Pakistan's sudden emergence as a key ally in America's war against terrorism.

Post-Taleban influence

India is also keen to play a role in the future political scenario within Afghanistan in the event of the ousting of the Taleban regime.

Ahmed Shah Masood
Opposition leader Ahmed Shah Masood: Visited Delhi before his death
The government is in touch with the Northern Alliance rebels, whose former leader Ahmed Shah Masood was in Delhi seeking arms and other military help just a few days before he was assassinated.

Prime Minister Vajpayee is believed to have discussed with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at length the role India could play in installing an alternative government in Afghanistan.

Indeed, General Musharraf criticised India for "its designs on Afghanistan'' in a television address last week.

The fierce regional rivalry between the two countries - both armed with nuclear weapons - could add a further complication to attempts to resolve the current crisis centred on Afghanistan.

See also:

20 Sep 01 | South Asia
India angered by Musharraf 'tirade'
20 Sep 01 | South Asia
Indian Muslims oppose US action
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's tough choice
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
16 Sep 01 | Americas
Analysis: Building a coalition
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