Is Kashmir a nuclear flashpoint? | Pakistan Today

Is Kashmir a nuclear flashpoint?

  • Along with nuclear weapons, there is the risk of biological

By: Musa Khan Jalalzai

On 5 August 2019, the Modi government’s nullification of Article 370 by a Presidential decree caused tension between Pakistan and India. The Indian army deployed thousands of additional troops in Kashmir, cancelled Hindu pilgrimage, closed all educational institutions, expelled tourists from the valley; telephone lines, and communication systems were shut down, and more than 5000 activists and political leaders were incarcerated. These security measures are pointing to the fact that the local administration in Kashmir is irritated, and failed to manage the exponentially growing violence in Kashmir.  The Modi administration also stunned political observers and policy experts by revoking Article 370 and said it was due to the complex relationship of Kashmir with India. Military experts in Pakistan viewed this move as a crystal-clear violation of the UN resolutions. Due to the complex relationship between state and centre, local administration banned gathering of even four people, and blocked major roads to prevent anti-government rallies. The Internet service has been shut down to prevent politicians and religious leaders from using Twitter and email communication.

However, if clouds of war spread over South Asia, the use of biological and nuclear weapons cannot be ruled out. The Indian Defence Minister warned that in case of emergency, his country can use nuclear weapons against Pakistan. On 16 August 2019, Rajnath Singh said; “India has stuck to its commitment of ‘no first use’ of nuclear weapons against Pakistan, but the future will depend on the evolving situation”. This statement further caused misunderstanding between the two countries. Defence analyst Lt Hen (retd) Talat Masood (21 August 2019) in a recent article viewed his statement as reflecting the state of mind of the BJP ruling class: “The Indian Defence Minister’s statement thus has not military nor would it impact Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrine and its present or future deployment. But being a highly irresponsible statement it speaks volumes about the current state of mind of the BJP’s ruling junta”.

In his interview with Fox News, Imran Khan responded to a question, “If India said we would give up nuclear weapons, would Pakistan? The Prime Minister said, “Yes because nuclear war is not an option.” And between Pakistan and India, the idea of nuclear war is actually self-destruction, because they have a 2,500-mile border

In 2016, Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif warned India that Pakistan can use nuclear weapons against its military installations. Tension mounted further when India army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat called Pakistan a nuclear bluff. Now the worst-case scenario is that either through crack-up, irresponsible statements, or mismanagement of nuclear weapons security, terror attacks might lead to a full-scale nuclear war between the two states. However, creating misunderstanding, and sabotaging development projects of each other, the intelligence war between the two states is also making things worse. India arrested Pakistani spies’ operatives, and Pakistan arrested Indian spies, which meant the cold war hadn’t stopped. On 3 March 2016, Pakistan secret agencies arrested an Indian spy in Baluchistan, that generated many controversial debates in international and regional media forums-exposing India’s intensions in the region. The Director ISPR confirmed Kulbhushan Yadav’s motive to sabotage the CPEC, the reviving of traditional terror-related operations, and the constituting of a new force to carry out attacks against government and civilian installations. India’s intentions about the CPEC became crystal clear from the statement of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in China where he vehemently bashed the CPEC and called the project unacceptable.

At present, with the commencement of the CPEC journey through Baluchistan, the Indian intelligence war entered a new phase. Border tension between Pakistan in India and the massive deployment of Indian forces in Kashmir exacerbated terror-related incidents from across the border in Baluchistan. Pakistan’s former Defence Secretary spotlighted New Delhi’s intension to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project via Afghanistan. Lt Gen (retd) Mohammad Alam Khan Khattak warned: “RAW and NDS launched a joint secret operation using the Indian consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. The three consulates in Afghanistan are providing weapons, money, training and other logistic support to agents for subversive activities in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi.”

The debate about the use of bio-weapons is not entirely new in the region as both Pakistan and India have developed these weapons for use in a future war. The issue of nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism in South Asia has been the centre of debate in the international press since Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists used these weapons in Iraq and Syria. The acquisition of chemical and biological weapons by ISIS and local extremists has created a huge challenge in India and Pakistan. In countering the Indian nuclear threat, Pakistan’s army attaches importance to the development of short-range nuclear-capable systems and tactical nuclear weapons. India is also striving to develop nuclear missiles to achieve a strategic deterrent against Pakistan and China, whose strategic capabilities are growing. The threat of nuclear weapons theft and bioterrorism in South Asia once again came under discussion in the international press on how terrorist organisations in both Pakistan and India are trying to retrieve biotechnology and nuclear weapons, to use them against civilians and security forces.

Recent border skirmishes between the two states can at any time cause nuclear affray. During the last 70 years, Pakistan and India have doubled the number of their nuclear warheads, making them the fastest growing nuclear weapons states in the world. However, India has deployed a nuclear triad of bombers, missiles and a submarine capable of firing nuclear weapons. Pakistan has also developed a network of nuclear weapons factories, plutonium reactors and nuclear missiles. In 27 February 2019, in his address to the nation, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned; “With the weapons you (India) have and the weapons we have, can we afford miscalculation? Shouldn’t we think that if this escalates, what will it lead to?– so both the states  need to adopt prudent approach, for war is a result of miscalculation, and it is easy to start a war  but difficult to end”. India also understand that the consequences of nuclear, or biological, weapons use would be catastrophic, and millions of Indians would suffer numerous diseases. Due to the thoughtless and incautious behaviour of the Modi administration, Prime Minister Imran Khan downgraded diplomatic relations and suspended trade with India. On 23 July 2019, in his interview with Fox News, he responded to a question, “If India said we would give up nuclear weapons, would Pakistan? The Prime Minister said yes because nuclear war is not an option. And between Pakistan and India, the idea of nuclear war is actually self-destruction, because they have a 2,500-mile border.

The writer can be reached at: [email protected]