Pakistan Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif more or less echoed this writer’s warning repeatedly given in these columns. I wrote that the biggest threat to world civilization today emanated from nuclear weapons. The most dangerous spot for possible nuclear attack is South Asia where two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, face each other in tension. The emotive issue causing tension is the dispute over Kashmir. The most vulnerable nation to even a limited terrorist nuclear tactical weapon attack is India, adjacent to Pakistan with its security establishment heavily infiltrated by pro-terrorist elements. Even a limited nuclear tactical weapon attack would ruin India’s future due to radiation and other factors. And finally, there could be international forces interested in just such attack to derail India’s immediate future.
Addressing the budget session of the POK Council Mr. Sharif said:
“ Kashmir is a flashpoint and can trigger a fourth war between the two nuclear powers at anytime.”
It was reported in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. This news created an uproar in the Indian media which reported that the Pakistan PM had threatened another war over Kashmir. This in turn led Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh to declare that Pakistan could never defeat India in war as long as he was in power. The India reaction was unbelievably immature if not downright strange and stupid.
Mr. Sharif’s office hastily attempted a retraction by omitting that sentence from the official press release issued later. The official statement did however retain Mr. Sharif’s demand that the Kashmir issue should be settled according to the aspirations of the people and the UN resolutions as peace in the region was not possible without it.
New Delhi should have shown some understanding of what Mr. Sharif was saying between the lines. As Prime Minister he could not very well admit that there were wild elements in the Pakistan security establishment that could trigger dangerous adventurism. His reference to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with the consent of people in that divided state was unexceptionable. Without popular consent no settlement would be lasting. Surely people in India would desire a final settlement of the Kashmir issue, whatever they may wish it to be, in order to remove all justification for fundamentalist elements to keep terrorism alive?
In other words it is time for the government to start addressing the Kashmir issue with resolve and to stop the continuing drift.
In fact it is more than late for the government to address the Kashmir dispute in a meaningful way. Today we are sitting on a tinderbox. The complacency that it will never explode because it has not done so for the past half century could be dangerously fatal. For fatal accidents there is always the first time. And the cost of such an accident would be so enormous as to impel a sense of urgency. Readers who consider such views alarmist should acquaint themselves with the findings of a study recently conducted by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). The study’s author and co-president of the body Mr. Ira Helfand said that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan would affect the whole world through a global famine costing two billion lives to end human civilization.
“A nuclear war using only a fraction of existing (India and Pakistan ) arsenals would produce massive casualties on a global scale—far more than we had previously believed,” he said. “A billion people dead in the developing world is obviously a catastrophe unparalleled in human history. But then if you add to that the possibility of another 1.3 billion people in China being at risk, we are entering something that is clearly the end of civilization!”
Does that not justify international concern over the Kashmir dispute?
People in India and Pakistan should therefore wake up. Never mind the use of many nuclear weapons, even the use of one or two would spell longstanding ruin for South Asia. Some flexibility and realism are required by both governments. The Pakistan Prime Minister, if not many of his colleagues in his security establishment, seems alive to the danger.
Is there any matching urgency and concern within official minds that rule New Delhi? I repeat: We are sitting on a tinderbox.