The Indian government has announced that it has struck against militants in what it claims are “surgical strikes” along the Line of Control [LoC, the de facto border] in Kashmir. India and Pakistan have a long and painful history over the disputed territory of Kashmir, and the attack has heightened tensions in an already tense situation. This is bad not just for people in Kashmir, India and Pakistan. This is bad for everyone because both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. Kashmir is a potential flashpoint, and the fallout will come down around the globe. De-escalation is vital.
Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, India’s director general of military operations, said there were “significant casualties to terrorists and those trying to shield them.” He added that Pakistan is “unable to control terror activities in territories under its control.”
Pakistan said this was nonsense. “The notion of a surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists’ bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects.” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said it was an “unprovoked and naked aggression of Indian forces.”
In the last two months, there have been nine violent incidents. More than 80 people have died since July. The incursions across the LoC had been in decline for the past 5 years according to the Indian government, but this summer, things began to deteriorate. The Indians claim a number of people have crossed the LoC of late, working in teams of four and showing evidence of military training by their behavior.
The Guardian reports the latest raids “were the first military response to an attack on an Indian army outpost in Uri, close to the LOC, on 18 September.India blamed the assault, in which 19 soldiers were killed, on Pakistan-sponsored militants. It provoked calls for India to drop its policy of so-called strategic restraint against its neighbour.”
Pakistan’s security services have a long history of helping what others call terrorists. The Taliban is their creation, and Osama bin Laden was brought to justice by Seal Team Six well inside the country. That is not to say that the entirety of the Pakistani regime supports terrorists, but a sufficient portion does so that this journal refuses to consider Pakistan’s a government friendly to western interests. It has never been friendly to India’s interests.
For its part, India is led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, which won power by promising a tough line on Pakistan. Since the attacks on September 18, Prime Minister Narenda Modi has faces significant pressure to do something. “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished,” Mr. Modi said right after that attack. This move in Kashmir is clearly part of his response.
Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani security analyst, said, “We have seen firing on the line of control before, but this is much more dangerous in the context of the rising tension between the two sides. I am not saying that this could lead to a full state confrontation, but this is how things start to get out of control.”
Things should never get out of control when both sides know how to make nuclear weapons.