De-escalation the only way forward

Published: October 26, 2014
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We know that Islamabad and New Delhi have control mechanisms in place to handle nuclear weapons, but whether these will work under the existing circumstances is an open question. PHOTO: AFP

We know that Islamabad and New Delhi have control mechanisms in place to handle nuclear weapons, but whether these will work under the existing circumstances is an open question. PHOTO: AFP

For a long time, a scenario has been discussed in which tensions between Pakistan and India start off a nuclear war between the two states that have a long history of hostility, and this then enwraps other parts of the world. Judging from recent events and pronouncements of leaders on both sides of the border, but especially so from the Indian side, it would seem that such a nightmare may not be ruled out altogether.

Skirmishes on the Working Boundary dividing Pakistan and India along the disputed region of Kashmir have claimed several lives during the last few weeks. They are continuing for now, with the mechanisms in place to calm down such tensions not really working. The aggressive stance taken by the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi obviously adds to this. To add to the air of animosity, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement on October 23 that India was illegally building bunkers along the Working Boundary, in violation of a 2010 agreement. This obviously does nothing to help. The mounting tension is hindering many things, most importantly the quest to better relations between the two nations for the sake of their peoples and for the region as a whole.

Add to this a whole new element of danger. PML-N MNA Major (retd) Tahir Iqbal raised the horrendous idea that the existing tensions could trigger a nuclear conflict. Other members of Parliament endorsed the idea. We know that Islamabad and New Delhi have control mechanisms in place to handle nuclear weapons, but whether these will work under the existing circumstances is an open question. It is essential that they do. It is also essential that the present rate of tension be lowered one way or the other so the fears being expressed now and the mention of a nuclear war can go away. This is simply not an option that can even be contemplated. The consequences would be too terrible to even discuss. Well before we reach a point where tensions worsen, it is important that representatives and the government focus on finding ways to maintain peace and thus, make all of us feel a little safer.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • ajeet
    Oct 27, 2014 - 1:48AM

    We are not scared and will not hesitate to hit back. Times have changed.

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  • Dilip
    Oct 27, 2014 - 5:05AM

    It is really pertinent and interesting to note that the word “nuclear” comes up ONLY in Pakistan’s newspapers and its government officials/elected reps etc. Never is it mentioned in their counterparts of India. This only shows just how obsessed Pakistan is with the “nuclear” terminology … for what end, only it knows!

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  • Anjaan
    Oct 27, 2014 - 5:30AM

    India also has nukes, but in India no one ever talks of either using nukes, nor fear of nukes … why is that different in Pakistan, where nukes are the straws everyone would clutch at … ??

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  • Plausible Deniability
    Oct 27, 2014 - 8:00AM

    Having access to media on both sides of the border, I am surprised both by the frequency and tone of contributors in the Pakistani media who never fail to mention the “risk of nuclear war” while at the same time glossing over the fact that it is the Pakistani army that initiates ceasefire violations by providing cover fire to infiltrators into Kashmir. The latter point becomes crystal clear when one understands that the current boundary covers Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, yet this seasonal firing takes place only in North Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir each year.

    As far as nuclear escalation is concerned, Kargil should lay those fears to rest. India successfully won a conventional war under the cloud of a nuclear umbrella thus proving that a nuclear strike is only possible within the realm of fiction as it would spell certain death for any country that uses it.

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  • wonderer
    Oct 27, 2014 - 8:26AM

    No side can take shelter behind the nuclear threat, which is pointless because nuclear bombs are never going to be used by anyone. Both should look for a solution disregarding this threat,

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  • realist
    Oct 27, 2014 - 8:29AM

    Pak and its nuclear blackmail!

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  • Feroz
    Oct 27, 2014 - 9:31AM

    Taking a one sided view may not be helpful. No solution can be found by dodging facts, since ceasefire violations are carried out by giving covering fire to intruders and terrorists. Which country is infiltrating terrorists need not be said here. Secondly, bunkers even if being built are on Indian territory and no one has the right to object. You cleverly overlooked the reason for the same, digging of tunnels by the Pakistani Military to infiltrate terrorists across the border. India will reciprocate and retaliate to provocation, not instigate them.
    India is doing well enough and has no reason to divert peoples attention from pressing issues with belligerence on the borders or creating a hoopla. To believe India will condone terrorist activities when threatened with nuclear blackmail is wishful thinking. Those who miscalculate in reading the situation and use nuclear weapons, whatever or wherever or whenever, will be committing suicide and will have themselves to blame. Give up on terrorism or die from it, relying on it make claims of peaceful intentions sound hollow. Actions always speak, louder than words.

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  • Tanisha
    Oct 27, 2014 - 10:00AM

    The recent border skirmishes would ultimately end up somewhere in nuclear exchange if India continue with the same violations. This is the time for Indians to realize the deterrence capability possessed by Pakistan. Till now nuclear weapons have proved to be good enough in maintaining its deterrence capability but now when India is trying to make Pakistan surrender in-front of India because of conventional inferiority then this is merely the mirage of India’s mind and a wishful thinking Pakistan for maintaining its dignity and also to maintain its border sovereignty would have to change its strategic posture viz a viz India.

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  • Gp65
    Oct 27, 2014 - 11:22AM

    @Tanisha:
    India has a no first use policy. The present situation can only resut in a nuclear exchange if Pakistan uses nuke first. If you are saying that Pakistan can violate ceasefire and it is India which should back off or else Palistan will use its nukes, then you have not thought this through. India would surely suffer if Pakistan used nukes, but what exactly would happen to Pakistan when India retaliates? Do you think your generals have not thought it through?

    It is time to stop the nuclear blackmail. India wants peace but will not be bullied. Stop firing and peace is assured. Continue firing and you will get a disproportionate response.

    Also violating he Simla agreement and speaking about Kashmir in UN and then holding a march in London on Kashmire are not the best way to de-escalate the situation.

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  • Reaa Mishra
    Oct 27, 2014 - 1:32PM

    ‘De-Escalation’ is not only the way forward but also the only liable & viable solution to survive the human kind of South Asia. The continued border skirmishes are an alarming danger for every one throughout the globe. But all this was expected with Modi. These are awaited tensions which actually been set upon the stage with the arrival of new BJP government. The political party which was in its election campaign directly threatened the neighborhood. How can we expect peace from such an offensive government of India? Interestingly, we experienced new face of India; started by inviting PMs of South Asia on inaugural which subsequently followed by aggression.

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  • V. C. Bhutani
    Oct 27, 2014 - 4:49PM

    If The Express Tribune is kind, it may be possible for me to share a few thoughts with its readers on the subject of this editorial. I am not sure, though, that my comment will be published. Let’s see.
    In India it is a widespread belief that Pakistan started the firing at the LOC and India had no option but to respond. With an ultra-nationalist government in Delhi, it was hardly possible that India would not respond with equal ferocity. My personal expressed view was that India should give eent ka jawab patthar se. This was done.
    Reports in Pakistani newspapers and readers’ comments seemed to tell an altogether reverse story. These reports and comments said that India resorted to unprovoked firing and that Pakistan had to respond.
    A mere newspaper reader like me who reads Indian and Pakistani newspapers and also some other foreign newspapers finds it difficult to reconcile the two sides.
    Unlike the editorial, I beg to submit that no one in India has for a moment suggested that skirmishing at the LOC could flare up into a full-scale war in which even nuclear weapons might be used. India’s declared position on this is well known, namely, that India shall not be the first to use its nuclear weapons. Pakistan has made no such commitment.
    It may be apt to remember that in the view of the rest of the world all past wars between Pakistan and India were started by Pakistan. This can be verified from writings of Western scholars, Western think tanks, and statements of several Western governments and leaders. No one said that India ever started any of the past wars.
    I am amazed at the depth and vehemence of feeling in Pakistan as seen from comments in newspapers. They all seem to believe that India started all past wars and that Pakistan was always victorious. This is at complete variance with the truth.
    Pakistan’s leaders, both civilian and military, have been misleading their people into believing that India is about to start another war against Pakistan. They have been giving warnings to India that India should not take Pakistan’s “restraint and reasonableness” as a sign of weakness.
    I feel completely lost: what kind of a world are we living in? I see no sign of preparation for a war on the Indian side. India’s past experience has shown that it is not enough to be nice and peaceably inclined and that it is necessary to be adequately prepared for defence. The present government is doing everything to ensure that India’s war preparedness is sound and solid and that India should not be taken unawares. The Indian attitude may be summarized in the following words: maintain the peace but keep the powder dry. This has also been said in different words: trust but verify.
    No one in his senses whether in Pakistan or India will lightly think about using nuclear weapons. Either side using nuclear weapons shall inevitably call forth a response in kind from the other side. The result is beyond imagination.
    At the same time, the rest of the world shall also know who was the first to use nuclear weapons. The one to use nuclear weapons first shall earn the distinction of being treated as pariah and consigned to complete isolation.
    V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, 27 Oct 2014, 1719 IST

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  • Muneer
    Oct 27, 2014 - 6:54PM

    Comments on the editorial are mostly from the Indian readers.The word nuclear may not be seen in the Indian press but the readers are talking openly about its use.It indicates that Pakistan’s assessment of the Indian Government ‘Designs ‘,is correct and also its Approach towards tackling it.

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  • Gp65
    Oct 27, 2014 - 7:29PM

    @Muneer:
    Which Indians are openly talking about nuclear use? They are just calling out Pakistan’s nuclear blackmail. India has a no first use policy since 1974

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  • Beenish
    Oct 27, 2014 - 9:12PM

    These so-called battles and skirmishes are going on the line of control between the two rival nations of South Asia since last 67 years resulting in the tragic loss of hundreds of civilian lives including women and children because of only one tangible reason.

    In fact thousands if not millions of people have been killed on both sides of the border since August 14, 1947 because the so-called biggest democracy in the world has refused to accept the right of self-determination of the brave but hapless and helpless people of Jammu and Kashmir as promised by its own founding father and its first Prime Minister in front of the whole world at the United Nations.

    On top of that, India is very keen since last two decades or so to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council of whose resolutions it is openly and shamelessly flouting, ignoring and violating for over six decades now. What a height of shamelessness?

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  • Rao
    Oct 28, 2014 - 1:34AM

    @Dilip:
    Most politicians and generals and elite honestly think nuke weapons are some sort of toys like hand grenades which can be lobbed over the shoulder and then can duck into the fox hole,

    All thisb could be done before breakfast.! India is the finished and Pakistan is saved!

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  • SV
    Oct 28, 2014 - 1:50PM

    Pakistani formula: send human “strategic assets” across, raise the nuke bogey, resurrect UN resolutions – and, finally – seek parity by blaming the other side (be it India, Afghanistan or USA). History, ideology and motivation for such conduct are on the side of one nation. Today that nation is known to harbor, support and hide terrorists from all over the world. That is the uncomfortable truth. India – will more than deal with it.

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