The fighting between Pakistan and India, which began on May 10, has
entered a new and dangerous phase. Early last week Pakistan accused
India of using chemical munitions in the disputed Kashmir. A
high-ranking Pakistani commander stated that India had used chemical
artillery shells. These were said to emit a smoke which causes blisters,
nausea, and itching.
What brought on this chemical attack?
On June 11 India accused Pakistan of breaking the Geneva Convention
on the treatment of prisoners. Indian officials claimed that one of
their downed pilots and six Indian soldiers had been tortured.
Retaliation for these “war crimes” was inevitable. In this case,
What is alarming, of course, is the nuclear capability of both
countries. India and Pakistan have tested their own nuclear devices.
Both possess ballistic missile weapons or bombers capable of delivering
nuclear strikes. Despite the danger, hostilities continue and the
day by day.
Last week India put its navy on alert in the Arabian Sea. This is
significant because India has a decisive advantage in naval weapons.
According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, India has
an aircraft carrier, 6 destroyers, 19 submarines, and 18 frigates.
only 2 destroyers, 9 submarines, and 8 frigates. Given the geography of
south Asia, a naval blockade against Pakistan could be highly effective.
All that aside, a most curious fact has emerged from the fighting in
Kashmir. Pakistan is clearly provoking the war. Pakistani soldiers and
Afghan Mujahedin have engaged in cross-border attacks, and have
initiated the conflict. Also, Pakistan has shown insincerity in the
peace talks. In fact, on June 11 Indian intelligence managed to tape
record a conversation between senior Pakistani generals. These tapes
reveal that Pakistan is not much interested in peace.
Indian officials have been baffled and frustrated, and now they are
angry because of Pakistan’s obvious determination to continue the
fighting. It is no wonder, therefore, that India’s interior minister has
publicly talked about all-out war with Pakistan. Indian Home Minister
Advani has said that if the Pakistanis persist in these military
adventures “they will have to pay a stupendous price.”
India’s military leaders are seriously considering an offensive into
Pakistan. This would mean a widening of the war. Thousands could die.
Nuclear weapons could be unleashed.
The critical point, however, is that India and Pakistan have allies.
Behind India is Russia and behind Pakistan is China. But Russia and
China are now allied with each other. Given this, could Russia seriously
support India? Could China seriously support Pakistan?
It’s a curious situation.
In a straight fight, any comparison of Indian and Pakistani military
strength shows Pakistan coming up short. India’s army is much larger,
and its air force is nearly twice as big as Pakistan’s. Even more
important, China and Russia have been quietly working to extend their
include India. This means Pakistan is weaker than India both militarily
and diplomatically. In other words, Pakistan is out on a limb.
Why, then, has Pakistan provoked this war?
The only possible explanation is that China is secretly backing the
Pakistanis against the Indians. No other conclusion makes sense.
And why would China encourage a war in Kashmir?
Russia and China share a common problem. They both have to deal with
Central Asian Islamic militants. And who is supporting these militants?
Pakistan. Therefore, to eliminate Pakistan from the equation, and
isolate Central Asia’s Islamic militants, would be a strategic coup for
both Moscow and Beijing.
Whatever the double game being played, there is more here than meets
the eye. By every measure Pakistan should be afraid for its survival.
But Pakistan continues to provoke India, and India continues to answer
those provocations — with air strikes, naval mobilizations, and perhaps
chemical artillery shells.
In the deadly game of south Asian diplomacy, someone has