India and Pakistan have once again come dangerously close to war.There is an apprehension this time that tension between the two countries could spiral into nuclear conflict of a kind we have never seen before.
The risks are all too easy to describe. Death, destruction, disease, economic collapse, affecting not just the immediate war theatre but many parts of the subcontinent and lasting…years.
Diplomatic offensives, military moves and counter moves and deployment of missiles along the Line of Actual Control sufficiently suggest that the situation in the region is going from bad to worse.
There is this concern also that the flurry of International diplomacy, being witnessed now, may prove too little. A leading defence analyst wrote in Janes Defence Weekly that the two sides have gone so far along the path to war that they may defer conflict for a while but can not necessarily postpone it forever now.
Combative statements and diplomatic skirmishes show that both sides are getting caught up in an illogical and irrational escalation. Apart from the three and a half wars they have fought in the past, India and Pakistan have bared claws a number of times. But it has been timely intervention by the international community and the United Nations that has brought about a ceasefire or prevented war from breaking out.
It seems there is a substantive move from the international community this time as well to prevent things from spiraling out of control. The Kashmir problem is on the threshold of sneaking into global politics subtly and surreptitiously. Notwithstanding the Government of India’s stand of bilateralism, the problem has started showing signs of assuming international dimensions and being of concern to the global community. On Monday British Foreign Secretary was quoted as having said in a meeting with his German counterpart that of all the current conflicts in the world the situation in Kashmir is the most serious of all. Although he maintained now known stand that Kashmir is a bilateral dispute but hastened to add “just because we cannot do everything does not mean we should do nothing.”
There may be many disputes between India and Pakistan but the fact remains that the Kashmir problem is undoubtedly the main issue that has all along stoked fire and brought these two impoverished nations to the brink of catastrophe. Past wars have failed to give a solution, and none is going to emerge even if the two go to war one more time. Wars bring destruction to nations, miseries to people, spawn diseases and poverty, and solve nothing. Negotiation and dialogue have helped nations to iron out their differences and find solutions even to the most multifaceted and intricate issues.
The international community has rightly been expressing concern over the explosive situation in the sub-continent. The British Foreign Secretary is visiting the region shortly on a peace mission. He has asked the two countries to resolve their differences through negotiations, and equally the US and other important world players have also strongly advocated restraint and reduction of tensions in the region. Saner elements in both the countries very firmly believe that war cries raised by rulers can only complicate the problems rather than help resolve them. India and Pakistan need to understand the urgings of the international community. They need to understand that people in both countries want peace, not war.
Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.