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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Analysis: India shifts Kashmir focus
Police search scooter drivers in Jammu
Indians are angry at another major security breach

India had waited three days for this - but when it came, it was more of a whimper than a bang.

Mr Advani's tone was oddly muted

In normal times, a major militant attack is hailed with fury by India's leaders.

The anti-Pakistan rhetoric is vitriolic and eminently quotable.

The enemy without is a topic guaranteed to unite Indians across the political spectrum.

But these are not normal times and on Tuesday, when LK Advani, now deputy prime minister, finally rose in parliament to deliver his government's formal response to the bloodshed, his tone was oddly muted.


His speech was circumspect, even obscure at times, his message carefully wrapped in layers of historical digressions and broader context.

Far from thumping the tub in the way the public has come to expect, he stopped short of blaming Pakistan for the outrage.

Students of Jammu University shout anti-government slogans after the attack
Many want tougher action
He even gave Islamabad public credit at one point for its swift condemnation of Saturday night's killings.

Pakistan had modified its attitude in the last year, he said, and now recognised the killing of innocent civilians as terrorism, not part of the freedom struggle.

It was an unusually appeasing gesture of recognition.

Restates policy

He did call on Pakistan to do more.

An end to infiltration wasn't enough, he said.

LK Advani
LK Advani: Toned down the rhetoric
Pakistan must also dismantle the militant infrastructure inside its borders - close down training camps, stop the supply of funds and arms.

His advice to American officials, he went on, was that if Pakistan refused to comply with these demands, it should face the threat of being labelled a terrorist state.

But all of this constitutes a re-stating, not a further development, of India's publicly established position on the matter.

'Tame' speech

The address wasn't even enough to titillate the national media.

The overall impression was of uncharacteristic restraint

On Tuesday night, Mr Advani's comments were the second story on some Indian television bulletins, not the lead.

The front pages of many newspapers on Wednesday chose different leads.

The parliamentary debate ended on "a somewhat tame note", said one. Another dismissed the whole affair as "dull".

There were positive developments.

Former law minister Arun Jaitley is being appointed to liaise with the government of Jammu and Kashmir and political parties there to explore ways of increasing the state's autonomy, within its Indian identity.

Mr Advani ruled out controversial proposals to divide Jammu and Kashmir, a plan favoured by the right wing RSS.

But the overall impression was of uncharacteristic restraint.

Diplomacy test

Much of this may be due to international pressure behind the scenes.

Tensions between India and Pakistan reached crisis point after the army camp massacre in mid-May.

Britain and the United States, alarmed by the military build-up and fears that conflict could rapidly escalate into a nuclear exchange, rushed to engage both countries in emergency diplomacy.

That did yield results. Tensions were reduced.

One of the aims of Western envoys was to urge India not to act hastily or impulsively in the event of another attack.

Now the effectiveness of that diplomatic pressure is being tested. So far, it seems, it's holding.

Courting the West

Some of that success might be due to evidence the West really has heeded India's complaints about cross-border militancy.

[Advani was] showing them what a responsible and restrained prime minister in waiting he is capable of being

It has already squeezed positive measures from Pakistan's President Musharraf and is committed to staying actively engaged in the dispute.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw arrives in the region in a few days' time.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected later this month.

The seniority of the envoys reflects the seriousness with which the potential dangers in South Asia are still viewed.

Future PM?

If India's main strategic goals were to win international recognition for its suffering, to harness militant activity in Kashmir to the global war on terrorism and to ensure the West's leverage in Islamabad, all that has been achieved.

Tub thumping is needed most when the important people are refusing to listen.

Now they are listening and Mr Advani's focus has changed.

On Tuesday, he wasn't addressing Indian politicians or even the Indian public, but the wider international community - showing them what a responsible and restrained prime minister in waiting he is capable of being.

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See also:

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