This Might Be Where the Very First Total Nuclear War Starts

And where billions of people die.

by War Is Boring

May 24, 2019

Undoubtedly, for nearly two decades the most dangerous place on Earth has been the Indian-Pakistani border in Kashmir. It’s possible that a small spark from artillery and rocket exchanges across that border might — given the known military doctrines of the two nuclear-armed neighbors — lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration. In that case the result would be catastrophic. Besides causing the deaths of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, such a war might bring on “nuclear winter” on a planetary scale, leading to levels of suffering and death that would be beyond our comprehension.

Alarmingly, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan has now entered a spine-chilling phase. That danger stems from Islamabad’s decision to deploy low-yield tactical nuclear arms at its forward operating military bases along its entire frontier with India to deter possible aggression by tank-led invading forces. Most ominously, the decision to fire such a nuclear-armed missile with a range of 35 to 60 miles is to rest with local commanders. This is a perilous departure from the universal practice of investing such authority in the highest official of the nation. Such a situation has no parallel in the Washington-Moscow nuclear arms race of the Cold War era.

(This article by Dilip Hiro originally appeared at War is Boring in 2016.)

When it comes to Pakistan’s strategic nuclear weapons, their parts are stored in different locations to be assembled only upon an order from the country’s leader. By contrast, tactical nukes are pre-assembled at a nuclear facility and shipped to a forward base for instant use. In addition to the perils inherent in this policy, such weapons would be vulnerable to misuse by a rogue base commander or theft by one of the many militant groups in the country.

In the nuclear standoff between the two neighbors, the stakes are constantly rising as Aizaz Chaudhry, the highest bureaucrat in Pakistan’s foreign ministry, recently made clear. The deployment of tactical nukes, he explained, was meant to act as a form of “deterrence,” given India’s “Cold Start” military doctrine — a reputed contingency plan aimed at punishing Pakistan in a major way for any unacceptable provocations like a mass-casualty terrorist strike against India.

New Delhi refuses to acknowledge the existence of Cold Start. Its denials are hollow. As early as 2004, it was discussing this doctrine, which involved the formation of eight division-size Integrated Battle Groups. These were to consist of infantry, artillery, armor and air support, and each would be able to operate independently on the battlefield. In the case of major terrorist attacks by any Pakistan-based group, these IBGs would evidently respond by rapidly penetrating Pakistani territory at unexpected points along the border and advancing no more than 30 miles inland, disrupting military command and control networks while endeavoring to stay away from locations likely to trigger nuclear retaliation.

In other words, India has long been planning to respond to major terror attacks with a swift and devastating conventional military action that would inflict only limited damage and so — in a best-case scenario — deny Pakistan justification for a nuclear response.

Islamabad, in turn, has been planning ways to deter the Indians from implementing a Cold-Start-style blitzkrieg on its territory. After much internal debate, its top officials opted for tactical nukes. In 2011, the Pakistanis tested one successfully. Since then, according to Rajesh Rajagopalan, the New Delhi-based co-author of Nuclear South Asia: Keywords and Concepts, Pakistan seems to have been assembling four to five of these annually.

All of this has been happening in the context of populations that view each other unfavorably. A typical survey in this period by the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of Pakistanis had an unfavorable view of India, with 57 percent considering it as a serious threat, while on the other side 59 percent of Indians saw Pakistan in an unfavorable light.


This is the background against which Indian leaders have said that a tactical nuclear attack on their forces, even on Pakistani territory, would be treated as a full-scale nuclear attack on India, and that they reserved the right to respond accordingly. Since India does not have tactical nukes, it could only retaliate with far more devastating strategic nuclear arms, possibly targeting Pakistani cities.

According to a 2002 estimate by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, a worst-case scenario in an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war could result in eight to 12 million fatalities initially, followed by many millions later from radiation poisoning. More recent studies have shown that up to a billion people worldwide might be put in danger of famine and starvation by the smoke and soot thrown into the troposphere in a major nuclear exchange in South Asia. The resulting “nuclear winter” and ensuing crop loss would functionally add up to a slowly developing global nuclear holocaust.


Last November, to reduce the chances of such a catastrophic exchange happening, senior Obama administration officials met in Washington with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif — the final arbiter of that country’s national security policies — and urged him to stop the production of tactical nuclear arms. In return, they offered a pledge to end Islamabad’s pariah status in the nuclear field by supporting its entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group to which India already belongs. Although no formal communiqué was issued after Sharif’s trip, it became widely known that he had rejected the offer.

This failure was implicit in the testimony that DIA Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart gave to the Armed Services Committee this February. “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons continue to grow,” he said. “We are concerned that this growth, as well as the evolving doctrine associated with tactical [nuclear] weapons, increases the risk of an incident or accident.”

Strategic nuclear warheads

Since that DIA estimate of human fatalities in a South Asian nuclear war, the strategic nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan have continued to grow. In January 2016, according to a U.S. congressional report, Pakistan’s arsenal probably consisted of 110 to 130 nuclear warheads. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India has 90 to 110 of these.

China, the other regional actor, has approximately 260 warheads.

As the 1990s ended, with both India and Pakistan testing their new weaponry, their governments made public their nuclear doctrines. The National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine, for example, stated in August 1999 that “India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail.”

India’s foreign minister explained at the time that the “minimum credible deterrence” mentioned in the doctrine was a question of “adequacy,” not numbers of warheads. In subsequent years, however, that yardstick of “minimum credible deterrence” has been regularly recalibrated as India’s policymakers went on to commit themselves to upgrade the country’s nuclear arms program with a new generation of more powerful hydrogen bombs designed to be city-busters.

In Pakistan in February 2000, President General Pervez Musharraf, who was also the army chief, established the Strategic Plan Division in the National Command Authority, appointing Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai as its director general. In October 2001, Kidwai offered an outline of the country’s updated nuclear doctrine in relation to its far more militarily and economically powerful neighbor, saying, “It is well known that Pakistan does not have a ‘no-first-use policy.’”

He then laid out the “thresholds” for the use of nukes. The country’s nuclear weapons, he pointed out, were aimed solely at India and would be available for use not just in response to a nuclear attack from that country, but should it conquer a large part of Pakistan’s territory (the space threshold), or destroy a significant part of its land or air forces (the military threshold), or start to strangle Pakistan economically (the economic threshold), or politically destabilize the country through large-scale internal subversion (the domestic destabilization threshold).

Of these, the space threshold was the most likely trigger. New Delhi as well as Washington speculated as to where the red line for this threshold might lie, though there was no unanimity among defense experts. Many surmised that it would be the impending loss of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, only 15 miles from the Indian border. Others put the red line at Pakistan’s sprawling Indus River basin.

Within seven months of this debate, Indian-Pakistani tensions escalated steeply in the wake of an attack on an Indian military base in Kashmir by Pakistani terrorists in May 2002. At that time, Musharraf reiterated that he would not renounce his country’s right to use nuclear weapons first. The prospect of New Delhi being hit by an atom bomb became so plausible that U.S. Ambassador Robert Blackwill investigated building a hardened bunker in the embassy compound to survive a nuclear strike. Only when he and his staff realized that those in the bunker would be killed by the aftereffects of the nuclear blast did they abandon the idea.

Unsurprisingly, the leaders of the two countries found themselves staring into the nuclear abyss because of a violent act in Kashmir, a disputed territory which had led to three conventional wars between the South Asian neighbors since 1947, the founding year of an independent India and Pakistan. As a result of the first of these in 1947 and 1948, India acquired about half of Kashmir, with Pakistan getting a third and the rest occupied later by China.

Kashmir, the root cause of enduring enmity

The Kashmir dispute dates back to the time when the British-ruled Indian subcontinent was divided into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, and indirectly ruled princely states were given the option of joining either one. In October 1947, the Hindu maharaja of Muslim-majority Kashmir signed an “instrument of accession” with India after Muslim tribal raiders from Pakistan invaded his realm.

The speedy arrival of Indian troops deprived the invaders of the capital city, Srinagar. Later, they battled regular Pakistani troops until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire on Jan. 1, 1949. The accession document required that Kashmiris be given an opportunity to choose between India and Pakistan once peace was restored. This has not happened yet, and there is no credible prospect of it taking place.

Fearing a defeat in such a plebiscite, given the pro-Pakistani sentiments prevalent among the territory’s majority Muslims, India found several ways of blocking U.N. attempts to hold one. New Delhi then conferred a special status on the part of Kashmir it controlled and held elections for its legislature, while Pakistan watched with trepidation.

In September 1965, when its verbal protests proved futile, Pakistan attempted to change the status quo through military force. It launched a war that once again ended in stalemate and another U.N.-sponsored truce, which required the warring parties to return to the 1949 ceasefire line.

A third armed conflict between the two neighbors followed in December 1971, resulting in Pakistan’s loss of its eastern wing, which became an independent Bangladesh. Soon after, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi tried to convince Pakistani president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to agree to transform the 460-mile-long ceasefire line in Kashmir (renamed the “Line of Control”) into an international border. Unwilling to give up his country’s demand for a plebiscite in all of pre-1947 Kashmir, Bhutto refused. So the stalemate continued.

During the military rule of Gen. Zia al Haq from 1977 to 1988, Pakistan initiated a policy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts by sponsoring terrorist actions both inside Indian Kashmir and elsewhere in the country. Delhi responded by bolstering its military presence in Kashmir and brutally repressing those of its inhabitants demanding a plebiscite or advocating separation from India, committing in the process large-scale human rights violations.

In order to stop infiltration by militants from Pakistani Kashmir, India built a double barrier of fencing 12-feet high with the space between planted with hundreds of land mines. Later, that barrier would be equipped as well with thermal imaging devices and motion sensors to help detect infiltrators. By the late 1990s, on one side of the Line of Control were 400,000 Indian soldiers and on the other 300,000 Pakistani troops. No wonder Pres. Bill Clinton called that border “the most dangerous place in the world.”


Today, with the addition of tactical nuclear weapons to the mix, it is far more so.

Kashmir, the toxic bone of contention

Even before Pakistan’s introduction of tactical nukes, tensions between the two neighbors were perilously high. Then suddenly, at the end of 2015, a flicker of a chance for the normalization of relations appeared. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi had a cordial meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the latter’s birthday, Dec. 25, in Lahore.


But that hope was dashed when, in the early hours of January 2nd, four heavily armed Pakistani terrorists managed to cross the international border in Punjab, wearing Indian army fatigues, and attacked an air force base in Pathankot. A daylong gun battle followed. By the time order was restored on Jan. 5, all the terrorists were dead, but so were seven Indian security personnel and one civilian.

The United Jihad Council, an umbrella organization of separatist militant groups in Kashmir, claimed credit for the attack. The Indian government, however, insisted that the operation had been masterminded by Masood Azhar, leader of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e Muhammad — the Army of Muhammad.

As before, Kashmir was the motivating drive for the anti-India militants. Mercifully, the attack in Pathankot turned out to be a minor event, insufficient to heighten the prospect of war, though it dissipated any goodwill generated by the Modi-Sharif meeting.

There is little doubt, however, that a repeat of the atrocity committed by Pakistani infiltrators in Mumbai in November 2008, leading to the death of 166 people and the burning of that city’s landmark Taj Mahal Hotel, could have consequences that would be dire indeed. The Indian doctrine calling for massive retaliation in response to a successful terrorist strike on that scale could mean the almost instantaneous implementation of its Cold Start strategy. That, in turn, would likely lead to Pakistan’s use of tactical nuclear weapons, thus opening up the real possibility of a full-blown nuclear holocaust with global consequences.

Beyond the long-running Kashmiri conundrum lies Pakistan’s primal fear of the much larger and more powerful India, and its loathing of India’s ambition to become the hegemonic power in South Asia. Irrespective of party labels, governments in New Delhi have pursued a muscular path on national security aimed at bolstering the country’s defense profile.

Overall, Indian leaders are resolved to prove that their country is entering what they fondly call “the age of aspiration.” When, in July 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh officially launched a domestically built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the INS Arihant, it was hailed as a dramatic step in that direction. According to defense experts, that vessel was the first of its kind not to be built by one of the five recognized nuclear powers — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia.

India’s two secret nuclear sites

On the nuclear front in India, there was more to come. Last December, an investigation by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity revealed that the Indian government was investing $100 million to build a top secret nuclear city spread over 13 square miles near the village of Challakere, 160 miles north of the southern city of Mysore.

When completed, possibly as early as 2017, it will be “the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities.” Among the project’s aims is to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for the country’s nuclear reactors and to help power its expanding fleet of nuclear submarines. It will be protected by a ring of garrisons, making the site a virtual military facility.

Another secret project, the Indian Rare Materials Plant near Mysore, is already in operation. It is a new nuclear enrichment complex that is feeding the country’s nuclear weapons programs, while laying the foundation for an ambitious project to create an arsenal of hydrogen bombs.

The overarching aim of these projects is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in such future bombs. As a military site, the project at Challakere will not be open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency or by Washington, since India’s 2008 nuclear agreement with the U.S. excludes access to military-related facilities.

These enterprises are directed by the office of the prime minister, who is charged with overseeing all atomic energy projects. India’s Atomic Energy Act and its Official Secrets Act place everything connected to the country’s nuclear program under wraps. In the past, those who tried to obtain a fuller picture of the Indian arsenal and the facilities that feed it have been bludgeoned to silence.

Little wonder then that a senior White House official was recently quoted as saying, “Even for us, details of the Indian program are always sketchy and hard facts thin on the ground.” He added, “Mysore is being constantly monitored, and we are constantly monitoring progress in Challakere.”

However, according to Gary Samore, a former Obama administration coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, “India intends to build thermonuclear weapons as part of its strategic deterrent against China. It is unclear, when India will realize this goal of a larger and more powerful arsenal, but they will.”

Once manufactured, there is nothing to stop India from deploying such weapons against Pakistan. “India is now developing very big bombs, hydrogen bombs that are city-busters,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a leading Pakistani nuclear and national security analyst. “It is not interested in … nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield; it is developing nuclear weapons for eliminating population centers.”

In other words, as the Kashmir dispute continues to fester, inducing periodic terrorist attacks on India and fueling the competition between New Delhi and Islamabad to outpace each other in the variety and size of their nuclear arsenals, the peril to South Asia in particular and the world at large only grows. (Click to Source)


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Indian general warns Pakistan ‘dare not try’ any cross-border military actions near Kashmir

Published time: 20 May, 2019 14:46

Islamabad will inevitably face a “befitting reply” from New Delhi should Pakistani forces engage in any kind of ‘misadventure’ in the disputed Kashmir territory, a high-ranked Indian general said on Monday.

A tough message to the arch-rival came from Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, commander of Northern Indian Army as he was talking to the media in Kashmir. The official made it clear that any cross-border activity on behalf of the Pakistani military would be regarded as an affront on the Indian side.

“They dare not try and come anywhere across the Line of Control to carry out any kind of actions. Our deterrence, articulation of our military strategy has been absolutely clear. Should there be any misadventure by the Pakistan armed forces, they shall always be given a befitting reply.”

Kashmir is experiencing a lull in fighting since the latest skirmishes that occurred between the two nations in February. India, however, insists Pakistan is continuing its hostile activities, namely cross-border infiltrations, ceasefire violations, and drug trafficking. “All their actions are actually working towards ensuring that the proxy war by them against India is continuing,” the general said.

The official also shared his thoughts on the details of the February flare-up in Kashmir as two neighboring countries clashed in a series of aerial combats following an Indian air-raid on the Pakistani territory. The air strikes, which according to New Delhi targeted a terrorist camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, were “indeed laudable,” the general said calling the operation “a major achievement.” The general, however, warned that ‘terrorist infrastructure’ on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control remains ‘intact.’

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of war rhetoric on the other side of the conflict as well. Earlier in May, a high-profile Pakistani military officer praised his country’s actions during the February encounter as local air forces launched several strikes and downed the Indian fighter jet. Labeling the maneuver ‘Operation Swift Retort’, he urged that any further Indian actions will receive a response that “would be even stronger than before.” (Click to Source)

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India launches airstrike on Pakistan after deadly Kashmir attack

  • Updated 

ISLAMABAD — India launched an airstrike Tuesday on Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing against its troops earlier this month, further heightening tensions between the two nuclear-armed states.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said the attack was directed at a militant training camp for Jaish-e-Muhammad, a group that India says carried out a suicide bombing Feb. 14 that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir.

The strike marks the first publicly acknowledged incursion by Indian warplanes over Pakistan since 1971, when the two countries were at war.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan responded by directing the country’s military and people to “remain prepared for all eventualities.”

Gokhale said the strike was urgent, citing intelligence reports that determined the camp located about 120 miles north of Islamabad in Balakot was training militants for another suicide attack.

“In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary,” said Gokhale, who added that “a very large number” of militants had been killed in the strike.

Pakistan offered a different version of Tuesday’s attack. Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the country’s armed forces, said in a series of tweets that the Indian jets were turned away by the Pakistan Air Force after flying three to four miles into Pakistan.

He said the Indian planes dropped their payloads near Balakot, causing no damage to infrastructure or casualties. He also posted pictures of toppled trees, craters and what appear to be bomb fragments.

Residents in the area said they heard aircraft hovering and five explosions before dawn.

“I heard the loud noise of aircraft followed by loud explosions in the surrounding area by the town,” said Manzoor Hussain Shah, a resident of Balakot, who believes the ordnance landed in a nearby conifer forest.

Local police said they were prevented by the army from accessing the area where the bombs landed. Other witnesses said the bombs landed in Jaba, a sparsely populated town near Balakot.

Pakistan’s prime minister held an emergency meeting with national security advisers and military and foreign affairs leaders after the raid.

Khan and his advisers said India’s incursion was aimed at burnishing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity in the run-up to elections in the spring. They said they would eventually allow journalists to visit the bombing site.

After the meeting, the Pakistani government said through its Twitter account that India “had committed an uncalled aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.”

Tensions have been escalating since a vehicle laden with explosives slammed into a convoy of Indian security forces in Kashmir in the deadliest attack in the region in decades.

India blamed Pakistan for harboring Jaish-e-Muhammad, which has carried out some of the bloodiest terrorist attacks against India. That sparked fear of a new conflict in the volatile region, a terrifying prospect given that India and Pakistan collectively maintain 180 nuclear warheads, according to the Arms Control Association.

India’s decision to characterize the attack as a precision strike designed to avoid civilian casualties, however, gives Pakistan room to respond in a more measured manner. (Click to Source)


(Los Angeles Times staff writer Pierson reported from Singapore and special correspondent Sahi from Islamabad. Special correspondent Zulfiqar Ali in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.)


©2019 Los Angeles Times

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Troops on the Move as India and Pakistan Face Off Over Kashmir

By Jeffrey Gettleman – Feb. 25, 2019

NEW DELHI — The Kashmir Valley, a disputed territory that has led to war between India and Pakistan in the past, is once again bringing the two archrivals to the brink.

In the past few days, hundreds of Kashmiris have been arrested, accused of fueling the insurgency against Indian rule. India has moved thousands of new troops into the valley, where they have taken up positions in towns, along the highways and in snow-dusted apple orchards.

Families are fleeing border areas. Fuel and food supplies are running out. Pakistan and India are firing artillery shells. An Indian government directive ordered doctors to “gear up their Rapid Response Teams” for “any untoward eventuality.” In Pakistan, the military has shifted to high alert.

What are the chances of war?

Still thankfully low, most analysts say, because neither country really wants it. But both India and Pakistan are nuclear armed, and any escalation between them sends jitters around the world.

India believes it “can afford brinkmanship given its growing global influence,’’ said Zahid Hussain, a senior fellow at the Jinnah Institute, a Pakistani research organization. But, he warned, “reckless action could easily spiral out of control.”

The site near Pulwama where a Kashmiri suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a convoy of Indian troops earlier this month, killing at least 40 paramilitary police officers.CreditYounis Khaliq/Reuters


Only a few months ago it seemed as if India and Pakistan, who would otherwise be natural trade partners, were searching for détente, with Pakistani military officers quietly reaching out to their Indian counterparts.

But that changed in an instant on Feb. 14, when a Kashmiri suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a convoy of Indian troops crossing the Kashmir Valley near the town of Pulwama, ripping apart a bus and killing at least 40 paramilitary police officers.

India, which has 1.3 billion people to Pakistan’s 200 million, has blamed Pakistan for the attack, one of the deadliest in Kashmir in decades. Tensions between the two countries are now reaching a level that analysts say is the most dangerous in years.

Western nations, including the United States, have urged the two sides to back away from conflict.

But the rivalry between India and Pakistan is so bitter and deep that such incidents quickly take on a volatile energy of their own that may be difficult to contain. The risk is compounded by election-year maneuvering in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party is appealing to Hindu nationalism and urgently trying to avoid appearing weak.


“We should break Pakistan into three pieces,” said Baba Ramdev, a powerful Indian yoga guru who is known to be close to the government.

Mr. Modi has promised a “befitting reply,” and while his generals have been calculating possible military reprisals, his government has searched for other ways to respond. Last week, Mr. Modi’s transport minister threatened to reduce the flow of water through some of its rivers to Pakistan, an arid, agriculture-dependent country.

A funeral in Prayagraj, India, on Feb. 16 for one of the soldiers killed in the suicide bombing.CreditRajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press

Pakistan seems to be getting the message. Diplomatically, the momentum is behind India. The United Nations passed a resolution sympathetic to India, and Imran Khan, Pakistan’s relatively new prime minister, has begun to soften his stance.

Right after the suicide bombing, though he condemned terrorism, he warned India that if it attacked Pakistan, “we will not just think about retaliation, we will retaliate. There will be no other way.”

On Sunday, Mr. Khan modulated his tone, vowing to “immediately act” if India provided evidence of a Pakistani hand in the bombing. He asked Mr. Modi to “give peace a chance.”

Jaish-e-Mohammed, the militant group that claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, has operated in Pakistan for years, and Western security officials say that Pakistani organizations continue to supply money and expertise to militants inside the Indian-controlled areas of Kashmir.

The suicide bomber was a young Kashmiri man who had spent his life inside those areas, bitter about India’s often heavy-handed displays of force. But he probably received some help.

Two Western security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence analyses, said that an experienced bomb maker from Pakistan most likely traveled across the border and built an unusually powerful bomb for the young Kashmiri to detonate.

Protests the day after the militant attack.CreditJaipal Singh/EPA, via Shutterstock

Pakistan has denied involvement. But the country’s powerful military and intelligence services, often referred to simply as “the establishment,” have a long history of supporting Kashmiri militant groups — and others, like the Afghan Taliban — as proxies.

Many Indians point to the Mumbai attacks in 2008, in which militants who were widely linked to Pakistan killed more than 150 people. Few Indians are pushing for a full-scale war, but they are also tired of the violence.

“Indians have never really been so angry, and social media is fanning it even more,” said Syed Ata Hasnain, a retired Indian Army general.

Adding to the unpredictability is Pakistan’s shakiness as a state, and the fact that its secretive security services appear to have lost control of some of the same militant groups they once nurtured. Pakistan also fields a large army, with thousands of troops at the border, backed by medium-range ballistic missiles that carry nuclear warheads, just like India’s.

“It’s a very, very bad situation and a very dangerous situation,” President Trump said Friday. He indicated that the United States was talking to both sides.

Caught in the middle are 12 million people living in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes the Kashmir Valley, a gorgeous, fertile landscape nestled in the Himalayas.

Pakistani soldiers watching over potential Indian troop movements on Saturday at the Chakothi post, near the Pakistan-India border.CreditSajjad Qayyum/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


The first war between India and Pakistan, right after their independence from Britain and partition, was fought over Kashmir. After the cease-fire in 1948, India was left in control of roughly two-thirds of the region, including much of the Kashmir Valley, while Pakistan administered the rest.

That agreement came with many caveats, and the Indian government at the time promised Kashmir special status and substantial autonomy.

Over the years, much of that autonomy has been stripped away. Pakistan, meanwhile, has never recognized India’s claims on Kashmir, and many Pakistanis believe that Kashmir should be part of their country because it is majority Muslim, like Pakistan. Pakistani officials have long called on the United Nations to support a referendum that would allow Kashmiri residents to choose for themselves.

This week, India’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on part of the law that gives Kashmir special status. Some of Mr. Modi’s political allies have been eager to take away the last of the special measures, such as rules that prohibit outsiders from owning land in Jammu and Kashmir, and a case has been brewing in court.

Many analysts said that if the Supreme Court diluted these special measures, Kashmir would explode in protests and the Indian government would respond with a deadly crackdown. The Indian troop movements in the past few days may be in preparation for such an uprising.

Many Kashmiris are now hunkered down in their homes, afraid to step outside. People also fear for their safety along the so-called Line of Control between India and Pakistan, where there are frequent exchanges of artillery and gunfire.

On Sunday, Karim-ud-Din Khan, an older herder, abandoned his home near the border after Indian and Pakistani troops began pounding each other’s posts. An artillery shell exploded in his courtyard and Mr. Khan ordered his family of six to pack up.

The reason he left was simple: “It looked like a war might break out soon,” he said. (Click to Source)

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