A Dangerous Move

7 August 2019


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

India to Strip Kashmir of Special Status, Pakistan to Resist


India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in the 1940s. The two of them have developed nuclear weapons, and they have large armies of reasonably well-trained troops. The State of Kashmir has been disputed since the Partition, and its status in India has been a special one with autonomy in some sectors. The Indian government has announced it is removing that special status and it will divide the state in two. Pakistan has objected. Throw in the fact that China holds some of the state by force, and the future looks doubtful.

The New York Times set out the basis of the problem, "For years, India's Hindu nationalists have wanted to curtail the special freedoms enjoyed by Kashmir, a mountainous, predominantly Muslim territory that has turned into a tinderbox between India and Pakistan, both of which wield nuclear arms. On Monday, Amit Shah, India's home minister, announced in a quick speech, which belied years of steady plotting, that the central government was removing the special, somewhat autonomous status that served as the foundation for Kashmir joining India more than 70 years ago."

The decision must be voted on by national legislature, but the government has a substantial majority, and it will be a rubber-stamp decision.

At the same time, the Bharatiya Janata Party government of Prime Minister Modi was cracking down on the state, and detaining many Kashmiri politicians. Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister of Kashmir, managed to get out a message shortly before she was arrested on Monday night. "The Fifth of August is the blackest day of Indian democracy when its Parliament, like thieves, snatched away everything from the people of Jammu and Kashmir," she said.

"Pakistan army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end," the country's army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, said. "We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard."

That is what ought to make everyone nervous. For now, one merely expects large, and possibly violent, protests. Back in February, a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian paramilitary personel being deployed to Kashmir. So, that clearly is another thing to fear.

However, the "line of control" that separates Indian-controlled Kashmir and the territory Pakistan holds has the troops eye-ball to eye-ball. It would take very little for a few shots turn into several shots, followed by a genuine engagement. Then, how does one de-escalate?

The USSR and USA were close to nuclear war on more than one occasion during the Cold War, but they never actually fought (except by proxy). The Indians and Pakistanis have actually fought wars, but these were before either side had the bomb (there was a limited conflict in 1999, but one doesn't actually count it as a war per se). It it the opinion of this journal that a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan is more likely than between any other powers since 1962's October Missile Crisis.

This would be a good time to find an off-ramp. The stakes are too high, and the administration of Kashmir is not worth incinerating cities.

© Copyright 2019 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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