Op-ed: Move Over, Kim Jong Un: It’s Time to Talk about South Asia

Program Assistant Abby Pokraka wrote an op-ed in The National Interest on why people should focus more on the potential for nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan.

“With India’s provocative abolition of the constitutional provision that guarantees Kashmir’s autonomy, tensions between India and Pakistan have once again soared to dangerous heights. This follows an intense military clash in February, which saw Indian and Pakistani planes bomb targets inside each other’s territory and over forty Indian paramilitary troopers dead following a violent ambush. While this recent escalation has not yet led to direct military conflict, the question that should be on the minds of world leaders is what would keep a conventional conflict between these two nuclear weapons states from escalating into a nuclear war?

Territorial disputes over Kashmir have led to two major Indo-Pakistani wars. The two states have maintained a fragile peace since 2003, but regularly exchange fire across theLine of Control. The most recent incident in February 2019 saw forty members of India’s paramilitary forces dead after an attack on their convoy in Pulwama. A Pakistani militant group claimed responsibility for the attack—the deadliest in Kashmir in three decades. In retaliation, India conducted airstrikes on a terrorist training camp in Pakistani territory, who returned fire on India-controlled Kashmir a day later.

Ankit Panda, Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Federation of American Scientists, pointed out that this was the first time in history that “conventional airpower [was used] by a nuclear power against another nuclear power.” Tensions continued to rise when Pakistan shot down an Indian aircraft and captured a pilot. As a way to avoid a military confrontation, Pakistan released the pilot within days, and tensions relaxed.

But things could have easily been much worse.” Read more