Let’s Not Forget the World’s Most Dangerous Border While We Fret
About Iran and North Korea
by Eric Margolis: Venezuela’s
Chavez Battles for His Life
Reports of fighting along Kashmir’s cease-fire line don’t normally
receive much attention in the western media. Last week, for example,
saw a series of clashes on 8 and 10 January that killed both Pakistani
and Indian troops.
One of the
Indian soldiers was decapitated, provoking fury across India and
calls from its extremist Shiv Sena Hindu party for a nuclear attack
common on the 1947 cease-fire line known as the Line of Control
that divided the beautiful mountain kingdom of Kashmir into Indian
and Pakistani-controlled portions. Fighting in that tense region
always has the potential to quickly escalate into a major war –
or even nuclear conflict.
under fire numerous times on the LOC, I used the experience in my
first book, War
at the Top of the World to illustrate just how dangerous
the simmering Kashmir dispute remains. A dispute that went from
bad to critical after India and then Pakistan acquired and deployed
nuclear weapons. This, I wrote, was the most dangerous strategic
threat facing the globe.
India and Pakistan
have fought three wars and some very large battles over Kashmir.
Both claim the entire mountain state. Pakistan’s intelligence service,
ISI, has waged a long covert campaign to insert guerillas into Indian
Kashmir to aid a series of spontaneous rebellions against Indian
rule by the state’s Muslim majority.
has joined mujihadin fighting their way across the lethal Line of
Control which is defended by Israeli-constructed fences, electronic
sensors, minefields and Israeli-supplied drones. Losses run very
high among those trying to cross the line.
have been in almost constant revolt against Indian rule since 1947
when the British divided India. Today, 500,000 Indian troops and
paramilitary police garrison rebellious Kashmir. Some 40,000-50,000
Kashmiris are believed to have died over the past decade in uprising.
the violence in Kashmir on "cross-border terrorism" engineered
by Pakistani intelligence. Human rights groups accuse Indian forces
of executions, torture, and reprisals against civilians. Large numbers
of Hindus and Sikhs have fled strife-torn Kashmir after attacks
by Muslim Kashmiri guerillas. It’s a very bloody, dirty war.
conflict poses multiple dangers. First is the very likely chance
that local skirmishing can quickly surge into major fighting involving
air power and heavy artillery. In 1999, a surprise attack by Pakistani
commandos into the Indian-ruled Kargil region provoked heavy fighting.
The two nations, with more than one million troops facing one another,
came very close to an all-out war. I have on good authority that
both sides put their tactical nuclear weapons on red alert. Angry
Indian generals called on Delhi to use its powerful armored corps
to cut Pakistan in half. India’s cautious civilian leadership said
Kashmir conflict also involves India’s strategic rival, China. Beijing
claims the entire eastern end of the Himalayan border separating
India and China, which Chinese troops occupied in a brief 1963 war.
China also occupied, with Pakistan’s help, a high strategic plateau
on the western end of the Himalayas known as Aksai Chin that was
part of historic Tibet.
China is Pakistan’s
closest political and military ally. Any major Indian attack on
Pakistan would risk intervention by Chinese air, ground and missiles
forces in neighboring Tibet.
Third, in the
midst of all these serious tensions, India and Pakistan’s nuclear
weapons – delivered by air and missile – are on hair-trigger alert.
This means that during a severe crisis, both sides are faced with
"use it, or lose" decision in minutes to use their nuclear
strategic command and control systems of India and Pakistan are
said to be riddled with problems and often unreliable, though much
improvement has been made in recent years.
A false report,
a flight of birds, and off-course aircraft could provoke a nuclear
exchange. By the time Islamabad could call Delhi, war might be on.
A US Rand Corp study estimated an Indo-Pakistani nuclear exchange
would kill two million immediately, injure or kill 100 million later,
pollute the Indus River and send clouds of radioactive dust around
That is the
excellent reason why we should keep a weather eye on Kashmir and
press India and Pakistan to make a fair settlement of this exceptionally
dangerous 66-year dispute.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2013 Eric Margolis
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