Beating Their Chests: Conflict on the India-Pakistan Border
Just last week, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi: activists from Pakistan and India respectively whose campaigns for children in their nations have received international attention. While these two champions of peace celebrated together, Pakistan was launching artillery volleys into Indian-held Kashmir territory. The subsequent back and forth of artillery and small arms fire is one of the only cases of direct conflict between two nuclear-armed nations in the world. So should we be worried about an escalating conflict resulting in nuclear war? Absolutely not. The governments of Pakistan and India are currently engaged in their latest round of ‘chest-beating’—nothing to worry about here.
Pakistan began the military engagement with artillery barrages into Indian territory in Kashmir this past week. This small region in the far north of India has been heavily disputed between the neighboring nations. While both control and administer significant portions of the territory, both lay claim to the rights of the entire area. There have been many similar engagements disputing this territory since the nations became independent in 1947. Last week, Pakistan was swiftly denied by the UN in their quest to have the international body intervene in India’s control over parts of Kashmir. While their efforts in this venue have continually been in vain, the recent attacks have been an attempt to draw newfound attention to the issue. Essentially, Pakistan wants the world to know it is not satisfied with the current status quo in Kashmir.
On the other side, new leadership in the Indian government must stand by its assertion that aggression will not be tolerated. Rather than swift moves to de-escalation (as has been India’s protocol in past border flare-ups), the Indian military has responded with retaliatory attacks into Pakistani territory. Retaliation has become as much a defense of pride as it is a military strategy for the Indian government, and its people are rallying around the new tactic. Pakistan is looking to make a statement, and now India has followed suit.
The scale of the military engagements has been relatively small, although it has still drawn statements from the UN, China, and other world leaders calling for its end. Estimates of the death toll are seldom above 20, and aside from the evacuations of some villages there is relatively little (if any) substantive military progress. The main result has been a frenzy of Indian and Pakistani media, who are engaged in fierce verbal combat over who re-started the fighting, which side should show more restraint, and which side deserves Kashmir in its entirety. While the news media in each nation fights it out, relatively little other than a flare up of nationalism within both countries is coming out of this latest renewal in hostilities.
While most news sources like to discuss the possibilities of Pakistan invoking its first-strike nuclear policy or a ground invasion by either side, the reality is the border situation is not fluid, nor is the possibility of nuclear intervention by either party. It would be utterly unnecessary for India or Pakistan to engage in a large-scale military conflict, and fear of this occurrence is nearly baseless. Motives for each nation’s aggressions are clearly pettier than extracting more territory, and one should look for this to quickly and efficiently blow over. While there are many conflicts in the world at risk of accelerating quickly, the tension between these two longtime rivals and neighbors is not one of them.