07 | DIC | 2019
Once again, Islamic and Hindu extremism bring the world closer to nuclear annihilation
Photo: U.S. Library of Congress via Reuters

Once again, Islamic and Hindu extremism bring the world closer to nuclear annihilation

08/03/2019
16:17
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
-A +A
India and Pakistan bring the world closer to nuclear annihilation after they fought air and artillery battles following the worst separatist attack against Indian troops in Kashmir last month

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Once again, India and Pakistan bring the world closer to nuclear annihilation, after the two South Asian powers fought air and artillery battles following the worst separatist attack against Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir last month.

Adil Ahmad Dar, a 20-year-old militant of Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), rammed his car laden with explosives into a convoy of 2,500 paramilitary police officers in Pulwama, a town near the region’s summer capital of Srinagar, killing at least 44 men and wounding two dozens in a rare suicide attack on February, 14 that prompted an Indian response almost two weeks later.

Indian Mirage 2000 jets launched a bombing raid deep inside the neighboring country, the first action since the end of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war and the consequent independence of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh.)

New Delhi claimed the incursion destroyed a major JeM camp near Balakot, killing more than 300 terrorists;” Islamabad, however, declared that its air force chased away the Indian warplanes, which dropped explosives in a forest area without causing casualties.

On February 27, 2019, two J-17 fighters flew into the airspace of Jammu and Kashmir—the only Muslim-majority state in India—and bombed a “nonmilitary target,” to demonstrate that Pakistan would not allow India to “normalize” United States or Israeli-style retaliation or preemptive attacks inside its territory.

Two Indian MiG-21 jets engaged the J-17s in a dogfight and at least one of the former was shot down; in a blow to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political grandstanding and Hindu populism, Pakistan showed the captured pilot blindfolded and interrogated before he was released as a peace gesture that helped to defuse the crisis along with the mediation of China and Russia.

Tensions have decreased as Islamabad detained 44 members of banned extremist organizations, including Hamza Azhar, brother of Masood Azhar, leader of “The Army of Muhammad” (JeM).

However, the Pakistani Navydetected and blocked” an Indian submarine in its territorial waters for the first time since 2016.

Several civilians and Pakistani soldiers were killed last weekend as a result of cross-border shelling from both sides along the Line of Control, which separates the two parts of Kashmir ruled by India and Pakistan.

Thousands of villagers have fled to government-run shelters o relatives’ homes.

Colonial legacy

Since the communal partition of British India in 1947 and creation of India and Pakistan, both nations have been involved in three conflicts (1947, 1965, and 1999) and military stand-offs due to the Kashmir issue, aggravated by its possession of nuclear weapons (New Delhi’s first nuclear test took place in 1974 and Islamabad became the first Muslim nuclear power in 1998).

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir since the Muslim uprising erupted in 1989.

Last year’s death toll was the highest since 2009, with at least 260 insurgents, 160 civilians, and 150 government forces killed.

The regional rivalry has led to other tensions—Afghanistan is considered part of the Pakistani strategic depth” doctrine—and Islamabad’s Intelligence Inter-Services (ISI) has supported other militant groups operating mainly in Pakistan.

For instance, a commando of 10 members of Saudi-funded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT, Army of the Righteous) terrorized India’s financial capital Mumbai during four days in 2008. At least 175 people died and more than 300 were wounded.

Seven years earlier, LeT and JeM joined forces to attack the Parliament of India in New Delhi, resulting in the death of 14 people.

In both countries, ruling elites use nationalism as a means of legitimising themselves and this time Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People’s Party) are using the war crisis to muster votes for India’s multi-stage April-May general election, in a context of Hindutva chauvinism and opposition to the demonetization program that declared no longer legal tender 80% of the country’s currency.

Worse still for Modi’s prestige—although he is favorite in the polls—the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir called the Pulwama attack the result of “an intelligence failure,” according to Indian author Arundhati Roy.

Local media reported, she stressed, that the authorities had indeed raised an urgent alert about a possible attack.

The situation is similar for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was elected just seven months ago on promises of jobs and increased social spending, yet now is negotiating a bailout package of about USD $12 billion with the International Monetary Fund—after receiving USD $6 billion in direct cash assistance from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—which will result in unpopular austerity measures.

Geopolitical competition between the U.S. and China is another factor to consider.

While U.S. President Donald Trump was heading for his failed Hanoi summit with North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-il, Washington said that India had “the right to self-defense,” highlighting its importance for the plans to counter Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In response to India’s strategy, which calls for the mobilization of conventional forces for a multi-front invasion of Pakistan, Islamabad has deployed tactical nuclear weapons.

In return, New Delhi has signaled that any use by Pakistan of these arms will break the “strategic threshold,” freeing India from its “no first use” nuclear-weapon pledge.

A nuclear exchange between both countries (India has about 140 nuclear warheads and Pakistan has about 100) would not only kill tens of millions in South Asia.

A 2008 simulation conducted by U.S. scientists determined that the detonation of a hundred Hiroshima-sized warheads in an Indo-Pakistani war would, due to the destruction of large cities, inject so much smoke and ash into the upper atmosphere as to trigger a global agricultural collapse.

This would lead to two billion deaths in the catastrophic months of “global nuclear winter” and the inevitable conflicts and diseases that followed South Asia’s “limitednuclear war.

Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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