A notable uptick in violence has been reported in Kashmir this week. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Indian sources say Pakistani troops fired guns and mortars on at least 50 Indian border posts. For its part, Pakistan blamed India for escalating the violence. Ten civilians, including two children, were said to have been injured in this latest spasm of violence, though contradictory numbers have been bandied about by both sides.
In any case, this is possibly the most serious breach of a ceasefire that has more-or-less held in Kashmir for the last decade. And it could get more complicated still in the coming months, as Afghanistan-focused militants have vowed to turn their attention to Kashmir as NATO withdraws.
Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif, traveling in the United States, promised to go the “extra mile” to make peace with India, saying that the conflict can and should be resolved through dialogue. But as we noted before when he and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh met in New York during the UN General Assembly, sweet words and good intentions from Pakistan’s civilian government mean even less than usual when it comes to India policy, where the Pakistani military guards its prerogative most jealously.
With this as a backdrop, we’d recommend you read Ahmed Rashid writing in the FT on Pakistan’s burgeoning tactical nuclear weapons program—a subject surely near the top of the list of things discussed by President Obama and Mr. Sharif this week in Washington:
Western officials say the dangers of such weapons are many. They are made in large numbers and are small and thus can more easily be stolen or hijacked by extremist groups operating openly in Pakistan; smaller nuclear weapons make it easier to decide to wage a limited nuclear war if Islamabad considers it is being defeated in a conflict with India’s much larger conventional armed forces; and such weapons can be specifically targeted on, say, invading Indian military formations, raising the ante for an all-out nuclear war. [...]
The real concern for western powers at the moment is not that two rational governments will go to war, but that the proxy wars they wage against each other will get out of hand. Terrorist groups who have been sponsored by the Pakistani military in the past and are not under any control now could create a war syndrome on the border, just as the 2008 suicide attack in Mumbai by Lashkar-e-Taiba did when 166 Indians were killed. Likewise, India is needling Pakistan by allegedly backing separatists in Baluchistan.
Do read the whole thing. It’s a good quick primer on the exceedingly complex dynamic at play in a conflict where the stakes couldn’t be higher—and not just for billion or so people living in South Asia, but for a wider world facing violent extremists who would like nothing more than to get their hands on a nuclear weapon of their own.
[Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) meets with his Pakistani counterpart Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 29, 2013 at the New York Palace Hotel in New York. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.]