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The India-Pakistan Conflict
1 June 2002 - A flurry of diplomatic activities manifested the concerns by the international community over the prospects of a full-scale war between India and Pakistan. Such scenario is made more ominous by the fact that both countries have nuclear capability, and that a nuclear war scenario is becoming more realistic. What is the root of this crisis? What is the situation in the region today? What are the possible state of affairs in the immediate future?
At the heart of the conflict: Kashmir region
As outlined in the CNN web page, India and Pakistan were both British colonies given their independence in August 15, 1947. In the same year, Kashmir became part of India.
These two countries have been twice at war over the Kashmir region. The first was in 1948 and the second in 1965. The first confrontation was settled when both countries decided to respect a ceasefire zone, later called “line of control”. The 1965 war was stemmed by a U.N.-initiated accord to respect the line of control agreement. But since then, the Kashmir region has always been a flashpoint in the relationship between the two countries.
Such tension was initially distracted by the 2001 anti-terror campaign waged by the United States, wherein it attempted a bold diplomatic strategy of taking in both India and Pakistan as allies against the Talibans in Afghanistan. However, now that the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan is winding down, Pakistan and India are after each other’s throat again over Kashmir.
It will be noted that both countries are, at present, in a stage of transition. One such transition area is in foreign relations. Pakistan is a former ally of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and thus perceived to be a supporter of Islamic fundamentalism. India accuses Pakistan of supporting Muslim militants in the Kashmir region. India, on the other hand, is emerging from a cold war consciousness marked by deep mistrust of the western democracies, particularly the Americans. It is not surprising therefore that when both countries were enlisted by the U.S. in the anti-terror campaign, analysts were unsure. FEER(20 December 2001, p.16) notes that the U.S. “is testing the theory that it can enhance relations with India without damaging its new ties with Pakistan.”
Another area of transition is their respective domestic political dynamics. Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf is bent on consolidating his regime and ensuring stability in Pakistan. Aside from the quest for political legitimacy, Pervaiz’s regime must also handle the pockets of Taliban supporters in the country. The Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, on the other hand, is also preoccupied with domestic concerns. Aside from ensuring his stay in power, religious conflicts such as that in Gujarat are also taking its toll on his leadership in particular and on the Indian society in general.
It is within this context that the present crisis blossomed. Pakistan is accused of being behind the recent wave of attacks, including bombings in the Indian parliament last December and the attack on Indian military camp near the so-called “line of control” this month. A charge which Pakistan denies and, in turn, it denounces Indian “aggression”. Both countries have started to build up their armed forces in the Kashmir region. Actual engagements, including that of artillery fires, between Indian and Pakistani troops have started and is continuing until now.
The United States has issued an advisory urging its citizens to leave the region. The personnel of the United Nations in the two countries have been evacuated supposedly as a precautionary measure. Moreover, British and other westerners are also leaving the territory.
Given this situation, a full-scale war escalating to nuclear strikes may occur if the situation in Kashmir is not resolved. To prevent this, there is a need for an immediate ceasefire so that talks and negotiations may be initiated. Along this line, the intervention of the international community is an indispensable ingredient.
It is therefore heartening to know that diplomatic pressure is actually gaining grounds. It may not be in terms of immediate results such as cessation of hostilities. It is seen in the flurry of activities initiated either individually or collectively by the various actors in international politics to prevent the nuclear scenario mentioned above.
Indeed, it may not be easy but the road to peace is always preferable over that of war and destruction. This the diplomatic community should be able to handle.
· Far Eastern Economic Review. America’s Other Friend. 20 December 2001, p.16.
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