NEW DELHI — For a world eager to see India and Pakistan climb down from a standoff that has included the threat of war between nuclear-armed rivals, India has one request: Wait and see.
Pakistan's decision to arrest the alleged architect of the Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai is seen as a positive step. As is the announcement Wednesday that Pakistan would abide by a United Nations resolution outlawing Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity accused of being a terrorist front.
But Pakistan has repeatedly cracked down on militants, only for its resolve to vanish when international pressure fades. In coming days, India will look for "assurance that this is not something being done only for cosmetic reasons," says C. Raja Mohan, a security analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Times of India is reporting the India Air Force is on "high alert" and has reduced the number of personnel on leave from the standard 30 percent to 10 percent.
Shutting down militant camps that are an "open secret" in Pakistan, according to one American analyst, would be a start, Mr. Mohan says. So would charging the detained militant leaders with crimes and putting them on trial, even in Pakistan.
Many in India's Army and intelligence agencies want more. Pakistan should hand over individuals who have clear links to terrorism or risk "military action to show them how serious we are," says Brig. Gen. Gurmeed Kanval, director of the Center for Land Warfare Studies, a think tank in New Delhi.
India: trying not to lose face
Caught between an agitated Army and an angry populace, the Indian government realizes it is in "a bit of a box," says Paul Kapur, a South Asia expert who teaches at Stanford University and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
Military strikes will only empower the Pakistani Army - the institution that is most hostile to India and began using militants to strike India in the first place. Yet Pakistan's problems are so deeply rooted and its 10-month-old civilian government so weak, that diplomacy can offer only slow progress. It could take years to strengthen Pakistan's civilian government to the point that it can control the Army and the militants it nurtured.
"The long term is hard to stomach - systematic changes will take time," says Dipankar Gupta, a sociologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. "In the short-to-medium term we have to do something about Pakistan ... [or the] government will lose face internally," he adds.
Recent elections in India have calmed the situation somewhat. The ruling Congress Party fared better than the more hawkish Bharatiya Janata Party in three of five states, suggesting that voters were not motivated by the desire for revenge against Pakistan.
Moreover, Pakistan has begun to respond to some of India's concerns this week. Raids nabbed Zahi-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the operations commander of the militant outfit linked to the Mumbai attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
"Four days ago, no one would have visualized that [Pakistani President Asif Ali] Zardari would do something," says Mohan, the Singapore-based analyst.
On Wednesday, Pakistan's ambassador to the UN also said that Pakistan would proscribe Jamaat-ud-Dawa if asked to by the UN. This was in response to India's request a day earlier that the United Nations Security Council declare Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organization. The charity openly collects donations on Pakistani streets, though India and the United States say it is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Using the US to pressure Pakistan
India is using a wide range of levers to force Pakistan to act - from the US to public opinion. On Tuesday, the chief police investigator in Mumbai revealed detailed evidence that all 10 Mumbai attackers were Pakistanis.
Yet perhaps most significantly, India has leveraged its relationship with the US to press its demands upon Pakistan. America's top diplomat, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and its top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, both visited New Delhi and Islamabad last week. America's No. 2 diplomat, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, is expected to come through both capitals this week. US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is expected to follow him next week.
The US has its own interests in intervening to prevent war. To succeed in Afghanistan, the US needs Pakistan to deny militants haven in its tribal areas. The Pakistan Army is currently fighting militants there. But if the feud with India escalates militarily, Pakistan will almost certainly redeploy troops from its Afghan front to the Indian front.
India, however, may be using America's interest to its own advantage, keeping military action off the table as long as the US is winning concessions from Pakistan.
"What India is doing is about the best it can," says D. Suba Chandran, an analyst at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi.
India is trying to avoid a repeat of 2001. On Dec. 20 of that year, days after Pakistani militants attacked the Indian Parliament, India sent hundreds of thousands of troops to the Pakistani border. Pakistan responded similarly, and for the better part of six months, the two countries stood on the brink of war.
Under intense international pressure, then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed, the two militant outfits linked to the attack, and promised that Pakistani soil would never again be used for attacks on India.
Within months, the detained militant leaders were freed, and the groups have since reestablished operations. Indians are likely now to demand that Pakistan go further than it did then.
Yet there are logistical hurdles. Pakistani citizens cannot legally be extradited to India - even if the Pakistani government wanted to go against Pakistani public opinion and do it. In addition, Pakistani authorities will need evidence to charge those detained in this week's raids - but there is no tested mechanism for India to provide such intelligence.
"India is not going to give Pakistan intelligence to be used in a court of law," says Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at RAND Corp., a security consultancy in Arlington, Va.
Still, this week has signaled some measure of progress. "The next few days will be crucial," Mohan adds.