by DEBKAfile

1 June 2002

NOTE: DEBKAfile sees possibility of three wars raging in the Middle East by mid-September. These three wars are: India/Pakistan, U.S./Pakistan, and Israel/Palestinians and Israel's immediate Arab neighbors. Such a conflict would likely spread uncontrollably to engulf the entire region.

Now, listen to this most interesting DEBKAfile Intelligence review:

"Two of the three wars fought by India and Pakistan since independence were over divided Kashmir. The fourth conflict looming ever closer focuses once again on the perennial dispute between the two nuclear neighbors. Yet DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that, if the match is lit, the two belligerents are planning to take the combat beyond Kashmir and deep into each other’s heartlands. The vulnerable areas of India are Punjab in the north opposite Pakistani Punjab, Ganganagar in Haryana State in the center on the fringes of the Indian Desert and Rajasthan in the south. Pakistan sees danger to its northern towns of Gujranwala and Lahore, its central region of Bahawalpur and Sind in the south.

Both New Delhi and Islamabad are gravitating towards war for the following reasons:

A. The Kashmir dispute is the overriding ideological, emotional, national and religious cassus belli – though not the only one. According to New Delhi, the cross-border Islamic terrorism plaguing Kashmir is backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Service-Intelligence agency. Pakistan terms the escalating combat in Kashmir a national war of liberation waged by Muslim Kashmiris against the oppressive Hindi Indian occupiers.
B. According to DEBKAfile’s exclusive Asian sources, the war buildup is also the outcome of circumstances. The US-led war in Afghanistan and its impending offensive against Iraq created conditions in the Indian subcontinent and Arabian Sea that invite the two neighbors to stake all on a final strategic decision of their fifty-year old conflict.
The Vajpayee government sees its chance of wielding its military preponderance – 1.2 million troops against a Pakistani army half that size, and an air force and navy standing in the same quantitative ratio to Pakistan’s – to seize large parts of Pakistan for one or more of gains: 1. To take out Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability; 2. To enfeeble the Musharref military government and render its army a long-term non-threat to Kashmir; 3. To topple the central government in Islamabad.
C. The Musharref government likewise feels its has been offered a great opportunity to cut India down to size at last. With the help of the superior nuclear weapons, missiles technology and guidance systems supplied by China, the Pakistani army believes it has a chance for the first time in half a century to beat Indian might and bring New Delhi’s pretensions as Asia’s number one power to naught. Islamabad believes that by going to war it will force the big powers, United States, Russia,China and Iran, to treat Pakistan’s interests with more respect.

As to these powers, despite the frantic diplomatic comings and goings, none has tried too hard to avert the hostilities until the eleventh hour, each for its own reasons.

The United States: The Bush administration’s dominant objectives in its ongoing war on terror can be summed up at present as being, first, to pre-empt a terrorist nuclear strike against the United States and, second, to strip of their nuclear weapons regimes capable of letting them pass into the hands of terrorists or elements hostile to America. These were not the goals President George W. Bush started out with after the September 11 suicide attacks on New York and Washington, but as the counter-terror war unfolded, the nuclear threat loomed ever larger until it took center-stage. This concern governs Bush’s dogged determination to go to war on Baghdad – the next most likely date is the coming fall – and divest Saddam Hussein of his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons at all costs.

Judging by the way international crises are going at present, DEBKAfile’s military experts do not rule out the possibility of the fall months of September and October 2002 seeing three full-scale wars raging at one and the same time, between India and Pakistan, the US and Iraq and Israel and the Palestinians.

To ward off an additional complication, Bush applied all his powers of persuasion to making Russian president Vladimir Putin cut back on technological and military aid for completing the development of Iran’s nuclear weapons capability. This was the main topic at issue between the two presidents when they met in the third week of May. Putin promised to see what he could do, but nothing has so far been known to happen.

Pakistan’s nuclear weaponry is a worry to Washington, as much as the Iranian and Iraqi nuclear capabilities. Though saying little, the US administration has been haunted by the thought of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Muslim extremists like al Qaeda. It would therefore welcome the elimination of Islamabad’s nuclear option, even if this came about as a result of a full-scale Indo-Pakistani war."