Monday, Dec. 1, New Delhi demanded the extradition of Lashkar e-Taiba leaders and Indian fugitives associated with them from Pakistan.

At the same time, India refused Islamabad's demand for evidence against the men on the list.

No intelligence agency will part with information that can blow its undercover sources. RAW will certainly not surrender leads to informants in Pakistan or expose its intelligence-gathering methods in that country and other parts of Asia.

Yesterday, president Zardari rejected India's extradition demands out of hand. He said that if evidence were provided, the suspects would be tried in Pakistani courts and if found guilty, punished under Pakistani law.

As expected by us, and evidenced by the following announcement today, Prime minister Manmohan Singh gave visiting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice a mixed message.

And while as we suggested on Nov. 30 that India does not mean to hit government or military targets in Pakistan, a strike in some form still remains very much on the table, a message Rice will take with when she arrives in Pakistan tomorrow.

That is, should information be received of any Pakistani military installation harboring Islamic terrorists or providing them with logistic support, the Indian army would strike those installations unhesitatingly. The Indian army would not limit its operations to any particular area but strike where it saw fit.

In Pakistan meanwhile prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and chief of army staff, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, are at loggerheads.

The general disputes the government line which leans toward cooperating with the Indian investigation of the terrorist attacks. He wants Islamabad to stand up to New Delhi, flatly deny allegations of ISI implication and confront India with a troop buildup on their border. India should realize, he contends, that any military action would meet with armed Pakistani resistance.

One of India’s military options involves ground troops backed by heavy fire support. These forces could attempt to push into Pakistani-controlled Kashmir to engage Pakistani militant groups directly. Though the Nov. 26 operation was complex and likely included a homegrown jihadist element, indications increasingly suggest that the principal actors in the attacks probably are linked to militant proxies of the ISI that have become gradually more autonomous and drifted closer to elements of al Qaeda and rogue ISI operatives.

Already shadowy organizations, these groups most likely have hunkered down in anticipation of military and intelligence collection efforts by India. Though amorphous and diffuse, they operate largely in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, a long-contested territory made up of extremely rough terrain. (They also have facilities in Punjab province.) Paramilitary forces patrol both sides of the border, an area for which both Islamabad and New Delhi keep war plans.

The Indian military is trained and equipped for this task. It has military and paramilitary units that train in mountain warfare and are acclimatized to the terrain. But the terrain is rugged and favors the defense. In the case of Kashmir, Pakistan’s defensive positions will have been chosen with care and are likely to be deeply entrenched and prepared for the defense. Soldiers and paramilitary forces along the border will be on high alert.

We cannot yet say what course India will choose, but in absence of a diplomatic breakthrough (Pakistan to give in to India’s extradition request) when Rice visits Islamabad tomorrow, we still view some manner of Indian military action against Pakistan as likely.

Conclusion: Where currently there appears to be a huge amount of  diplomacy going on this might be followed by several days of outward (public) silence. The big mystery is what the United States is saying to Pakistan and India, and whether outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush is saying the same thing as President-elect Barack Obama. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama identified Pakistan as the major issue behind the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and implied there would be U.S. action if there was no cooperation from Islamabad.

India has made demands of Pakistan that are unlikely to be met. Pakistan is not turning over the 20 individuals that India is seeking extradition of. Will the United States restrain India from taking action against Pakistan? Is it going to use the Indian threat to force Pakistani cooperation? Can Pakistan cooperate? Will Washington join New Delhi in action against Pakistan?

These are the questions we like to look the next few days.