New York, Aug 13 : With Islamabad refusing to heed New Delhi's advice not to interfere in India's internal matters, the problem before the Indian side is that by talking to the new civilian government of Pakistan, it is no longer negotiating with those who have the power to decide between war and peace.
"The real power," said one Indian official "is so far away from the structures the world deals with."
For India, argued the official, that distance has become all the more vast in recent months, since it is negotiating with an elected Pakistani government that has little influence over the Pakistan's more powerful army and spy agency.
India has openly blamed the ISI and indirectly blamed the army for spoiling the peace that it was negotiating with Pakistan's former Army Chief, President Pervez Musharraf, before his party was drubbed in parliamentary elections in February.
"You're talking at two or three removes from the real power. They have to talk to the people who do control this," the New York Times quoted the official, as saying.
The official and other Indian and American officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
India's predicament hints at a gnawing problem inside Pakistan, which has been under military rule for half of its nearly 62-year existence. Even when civilians govern, they are forced to tread lightly around the country's army and intelligence agency.
The stakes could hardly be higher now, as India-Pakistan relations fall to a perilous new low. The Indian Army has reported a spike in cease-fire violations on the disputed frontier in Kashmir, prompting direct skirmishes between the two militaries.
There have been a series of terrorist attacks in the last several months, which India says have been conducted by militant groups aided or trained by Pakistanis.
In Washington, American intelligence officials hinted at a new shared worry for India and Afghanistan.
Militant groups that had been operating inside Jammu and Kashmir have been carrying out attacks inside Afghanistan lately. They include, according to American officials, Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group dominated by ethnic Punjabis from Pakistan that New Delhi blames for several terrorist attacks inside India.
American officials cautioned that while Pakistan's ISI was likely to be working with some of these extremists, many of the militants were operating independently and benefited from ties to groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
India's vulnerability, officials and analysts here say, is largely a function of a Pakistan in flux. Musharraf faces impeachment proceedings. Pakistan's two leading politicians, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, have no official posts. And the army and the ISI can operate with little accountability to a rudderless civilian administration led by Gilani.