The decades-long quarrel between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir region escalated after recent military action led to the possession of nuclear weapons for both countries.
The current iteration of the Pakistan and India conflict began on Feb. 14 with a terrorist attack on an Indian convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir. “Thursday’s attack on a convoy of Indian soldiers killed 40 and wounded five,” said M. Dhinakaran, deputy inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force. According to CNN, it was deadliest attack on security forces since the beginning of the insurgency in the late 1980s. India claimed Pakistan was responsible, and tensions continued to rise as both countries’ militaries engaged in skirmishes throughout the Kashmir region, including aerial dogfights. In one of these dogfights, Pakistan forces shot down and captured Indian airman Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. After the Pakistanis held him for three days, Varhaman returned safely to India on March 1.
Daniel Bennett, professor of political science at John Brown University, explained the reason behind the long-time rivalry of Pakistan and India. “After World War 2 and after Great Britain was finishing its withdrawal from the empire, what happened [is that] India and Pakistan were created into two separate countries, and there’s really no justification for having those two countries,” Bennett said. He went on to say that Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country, while India is primarily Hindu. “Muslims and Hindus in that part of the world have a lot of conflict with one another, culturally, religiously, for a number of reasons, but the main conflict between India and Pakistan has always been the disputed border region of Kashmir.” The two countries have heavily disputed this area because ethnic Pakistanis and ethnic Indians share its border. “It can get messy, and it has gotten messy. This recent conflict is just the most recent iteration,” Bennett said.
India and Pakistan may have reason to fight. Bennett discusses the likelihood of a war between the two nations: “It’s happened before, back in the 70s. It hasn’t happened since both of them have developed nuclear weapons. Going back to cold war nuclear deterrence theory, you wouldn’t expect two nuclear powers to go war,” Bennett said.
The consequences of a nuclear war are great enough to keep both powers from using the full capacity of their arsenals, Bennett said. “It’s probably less likely than it was before they both got nuclear weapons. I think both countries have an incentive to dial back the rhetoric. These skirmishes are still going to take place, but the leadership knows that if this escalates too far and too quickly, it could be really dangerous.”