India After Musharraf

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Aug. 19 – President Parvez Musharraf's departure from the Pakistani Politibureau leaves an unpleasant power vacuum between India and Pakistan – arch rivals and nuclear powers. Indian Foreign policy experts believe that Musharraf's resignation effectively eliminates India's one point man on the kashmir issue – the main bone of contention between the two countries.

New Delhi's fear is that a weak civilian government in Islamabad will be unable to exert the same muscle that Musharraf did over Pakistan's army and the powerful military spy agency, the ISI, which India suspects has a hand in most attacks in Kashmir.

"How the vacuum is handled by the civilian government, how much control they can exercise on the radical elements remains to be seen," a senior Indian foreign ministry official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.

"After four good years in which India had high hopes for the peace process, in the last four months the opposite has happened," said C. Raja Mohan, an Indian foreign affairs analyst based in Singapore.

"Musharraf was seen by India as decisive and ready to engage, compared with the chaos and division of the last few months."

Coincidence or not, as Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's influence waned this year, there was a spike in firing across the Indian border, a bomb attack on India's Kabul embassy and diplomatic spats over Kashmir.

The two countries have fought three wars since independence in 1947 and nearly came to a fourth one in 2002.

But since a peace process began in 2004 under Musharraf, there has been a string of improvements, from a cross-border bus service to more trade and some progress over border disputes.

That peace process could now be dumped, with a return to the hostilities that dogged South Asia for decades. Some Indian experts fear more Pakistan-backed militant attacks in Kashmir and the rest of India if Islamabad's new civilian government fails to assert control over the military.