The recent tensions between India and Pakistan have had the world holding its breath. The two powers, which are in possession of nuclear arms, have long been in a state of conflict, with the first war between them just two months prior to their independence in October 1947. However, all this might have you questioning: what is the essence of this conflict, and why is it so significant?
Kashmir, the centre of the conflict, would appear to an outsider to be relatively insignificant, a small region in the northern Indian subcontinent. The longstanding debate as to whether this is a part of India or Pakistan has been dividing opinion from 1947. India and Pakistan have fought several wars, and India has become involved in internal conflicts, such as East Pakistan’s bid for independence, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh.
Despite this, it is only recently that the conflict has escalated to the point that there is a danger of nuclear war. On February 27th, 2019, Pakistan shot down 2 Indian military jets and captured a pilot in response to an attack in Kashmir, killing 40 Indian troops. Although, technically, Kashmir is free to accede to either India or Pakistan, the dispute continues, with intervals of peace occurring between attacks. Currently, neither country is in definite control of the region with power being shared, however this may be subject to change, with both India and Pakistan recently engaging in attacks against the other.
Indeed, a similar situation was seen when the US was on the brink of war with the USSR during the Cold War. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers captured images of Soviet missile bases in Cuba. Following this, the plane was shot down and the pilot captured. In the days after this, the world was said to be the closest it has ever been to nuclear war. But, arguably, the current situation in Asia may be rivalling this. Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, stated that the nation is ready for war in a recent address.
This would have inevitable negative consequences, not just for those within Asia but on a global stage. Whilst trade with both nations would be affected in a nuclear conflict, thus worsening the financial position of a number of countries worldwide including superpowers such as the US, China and the UK, great destruction would also take place to the infrastructure of both countries, leaving any survivors unable to continue an ordinary life. To add to this, the number of human casualties would be significant, with an Indian population of nearly 1.4 billion and a Pakistani population of over 204 million. Another potential consequence could be displacement of people, with people evacuating to seek refuge in a safer place, or possible birth defects resulting from radiation. This does not even begin to consider the environmental repercussions, with terrible effects on human food resources as well as the surrounding wildlife.
Clearly this precocious situation poses a great risk, not only to the people of India and Pakistan, but also to the rest of the world. This leaves the question: are we really on the brink of nuclear war?