Kashmir solution can halt S. Asia’s nuclear race


India must become aware that a more muscular response to Pakistani aggression on the LoC will come with a price that probably isn’t worth paying. The picture is of commanders of the Indian and Pakistani Armies at a flag meeting in Poonch. PHOTO/The Hindu

Senior Reseach Associate at Proliferation Research and Assessment Program, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Gaurav Kampani’s (2005) assessment of Indian militarism and Pakistani infiltration seems of particular relevance: valid concerns about the disastrous repercussions of a large-scale conventional war and the menace of nuclear escalation looming large on the horizon have deterred India from launching full-scale attacks on training camps, insurgent strongholds and permeable routes in Pakistan-controlled territories which precipitate infiltration (ibid.: 166). Pakistan has been successful in aiding and abetting insurgents in Kashmir, in providing a red herring to divert the attention of the Indian military from insurgency and counter-insurgency operations in the Valley, and in underlining the internationalization of the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan has carefully wooed the US by making the argument that nuclear disarmament can be achieved in South Asia only if the Kashmir crisis is resolved (Iqbal 1993). Again, I turn to Kampani’s interesting inference regarding Pakistan’s strategic rationale for its nuclear capability and its constant attempts to foreground the Kashmir issue: “the political linkage between regional nuclear disarmament and the resolution of the Kashmir dispute appears to be an opportunistic attempt on the part of Islamabad to create nonproliferation incentives for US policymakers to intervene in the Kashmir conflict” (Kampani 2005: 167; also see Chadha 2005). The Pakistani military reinforced western concerns regarding nuclear proliferation in South Asia. In reaction to Pakistan’s aggressive transgression of the LOC India exercised political tact and restraint, winning international support for its diplomacy. Washington’s political volte face became apparent when it explicitly demanded that Islamabad withdraw from occupied Indian positions and maintain the legitimacy of the LOC in Kashmir. It was implicit in this demand that it saw Pakistan as the egregious aggressor.

The attempt by the US to mitigate Pakistan’s aggression also implied that it would not reinforce the status quo in Kashmir (Kampani 2005: 171). Washington’s incrimination of Pakistani aggression mitigated New Delhi’s fear that internationalization of the Kashmir dispute would spell unambiguous victory for Pakistan. India’s strategy of diplomacy and restraint increased the international pressure on Pakistan to withdraw its forces from Indian territory. India took recourse to limited conventional war under nuclear conditions, prior to President Clinton’s March 2000 visit to New Delhi. At this point in time, proliferation was relegated to the background in Indo–US relations. In an e-mail to me (dated 10 April 2008), late Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India, P.N. Duda, wrote:

The US has a morbid syndrome of commune-phobia. After the end of the World War I, Palestine was brought under the mandate of the UK, and on releasing it for freedom, an enclave in the heart of Palestine, Israel, was created as landing, stacking and attacking base to all West Asian states. Now the sole superpower and its conclave are interested in creating another Israel to artfully manage the former Soviet Union, China, Mongolia and Afghanistan in South Asia. There cannot be a better place for that than India.

Stephen P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta underline the further recession of this issue to the background during the Bush administration. The neo-conservatives in that administration zeroed in on India as a country in the Asia–Pacific region that would offset China’s burgeoning economy, which I see as an attempt to reconstruct the cold-war paradigm (‘US–South Asia Relations under Bush’ 2001).

US strategic ties with New Delhi were further consolidated in the wake of 11 September 2001, when the links between militant Islamic groups and Pakistan’s military and militia forces were underscored. As one of the consequences of the decision of the Bush administration to eliminate Al-Qaeda and its supporters in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharaff found himself with no option but to sever ties with the Taliban. Following this drastically changed policy decision to withdraw political and military support from the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Islamabad found itself unable to draw a clear line of distinction between “terrorists” in Afghanistan and “freedom fighters” in Kashmir. Islamabad’s quandary proved New Delhi’s trump card (Chaudhuri 2001). New Delhi was able to justify its military stance vis-à-vis Pakistan in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the J & K State Assembly in the summer capital, Srinagar, in October 2001, and then the attacks on the Indian Parliament, New Delhi, a month later, in November. New Delhi’s strategy was validated by US military operations in Afghanistan, and the deployment of US forces in and around Pakistan to restrain Pakistani aggression. India was assured by the US that it would stall any attempt by Pakistan to extend the Kashmir dispute beyond local borders, which might disrupt its operations against the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Also, deployment of the US military in Pakistani air bases strengthened New Delhi’s confidence that Islamabad would hesitate to initiate nuclear weapons use (Kampani 2002). The result of India’s policy of coercive diplomacy was that the Musharraf regime was pressured by the US to take strict military action against the mercenary and militant Islamic groups bolstering the insurgency in Kashmir (PBS interview with US Undersecreatry of State, Richard Armitage, 30 August 2002). New Delhi was successful in getting Islamabad to both privately and publicly renounce its support to insurgents in J & K.

The Indian administration decided that in the event deterrence measures failed, the Indian army would have to fight a limited conventional wars under nuclear conditions. The possibility of fighting a war has driven the Indian government to contemplate a nuclear response to Pakistan’s deployment of nuclear weapons (see Chengappa 2000). But Indian leaders have threatened Islamabad with punitive measures if Pakistan resorts to nuclear weapons use (Tellis 2001: 251–475). India and Pakistan routinely brandish their nuclear capabilities to intimidate each other. The two countries have also resorted to direct nuclear signaling through ballistic-missile tests. Such strategies emphasize the military and political volatility in South Asia (“Delhi Positions Missiles on Border,” Dawn, 27 December 2001). Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has given its military the prowess it requires to exploit the disgruntlement of the Muslim population of the Kashmir Valley. Kampani makes an intelligent assessment about the growing nuclear capabilities of both India and Pakistan, and the role they have played in deterring a large-scale conventional war. Pakistan’s military leaders are privately convinced that its daunting nuclear arsenal has dissuaded India from embarking upon a large-scale war. India’s cautious stance is, however, dictated by multiple factors. Its primary concern is that a limited war will not enable it to accomplish substantive political or military objectives; that such a war might spin out of control and would be impossible to cease according to the wishes of the administration and the military; that India might find itself in disfavor with and spurned by the international community; and that a war might beef up nuclear armament. The impending menace of precipitative nuclearization has been one of the many factors underlining the necessity to maintain a quasi-stable regime in the South Asian region (Kampani 2005: 177). In effect, one of the ramifications of India and Pakistan climbing the ladder of nuclear proliferation has been a tottering stability, maintained amidst the continuing conflict in Kashmir.

Pakistan’s explicit aiding and abetting of insurgents in Kashmir has created misgiving about its strategies, and enabled India to prevent UN mediation. New Delhi managed to diminish the threat of internationalization of the Kashmir dispute in 2001–02 by threatening a nuclear exchange unless the US intervened to prevent Pakistan from fomenting cross-border terrorism (ibid.: 178). The ideological and power rivalry between India and Pakistan, however, transcend the Kashmir dispute (Tellis 2001: 8–11). Regardless of the possibility of nuclear restraint in South Asia, a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would put a monkey wrench in the drive in both countries to beef up their nuclear arsenals.

Nyla Khan can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com

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