That the Indian subcontinent is a nuclear flashpoint is an unarguable fact. Despite their shared heritage, both countries have a long and violent history of conflict. Over the last few months, things are coming ahead. The numerous ceasefire violations, terror attacks, surgical strike, Pulwama attack, abrogation of Article 370 and the alliance between India’s arch-rivals Pakistan and China do not augur well for peace. Political leaders on both sides are actually openly discussing the possibility of war, that too a nuclear war.
Is this a possibility? Yes, it is, even with both countries being aware of the repercussions of nuclear war and the international community apprehensively monitoring developments. India and Pakistan have fought each other thrice and both have powerful armies. The geopolitical situation has been uncertain ever since Partition and Kashmir’s ambiguous secession to India. The resentment over the massacre and exodus of Kashmiri pundits from the Valley has been a chip on India’s shoulder for long.
As for Pakistan, India is its raison d’etre, the object of hate that has consumed its past, present, and future. To be fair, people on both sides have displayed remarkable affection for each other whenever they have been in cultural, social or economic contact. But this time around, the balance seems to be tipping in favor of conflict.
Pakistan has been ruled by the army for much of its history and it has done everything to make sure that Kashmir remains a boiling issue for Pakistan. It has managed to stir millions of Pakistani citizens who have nothing to do with Kashmir. At the same time, Pakistan is a sanctuary for terrorist organizations which would be happy to leverage the Kashmir issue to take a jab at India.
Sabre-rattling apart, the realization that both countries are nuclear powers should be sobering. Diplomacy and restraint on both sides can help check escalation of tensions before the conflict reaches critical mass.