Clouds of nuclear war over S Asia | By Sajjad Shaukat


Clouds of nuclear war over S Asia

SINCE Narendar Modi became Indian prime minister, he has been following belligerent policies by ignoring the doctrine of nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis Pakistan and China.

A US intelligence report, entitled ‘The Global Trends’, released on 07 April, this year warned that “nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan might engage in a large-scale war unwittingly”.

The annual threat assessment report–2021 which was prepared by the US government’s National Intelligence Council and also sent to Congress said: “The ability of some militant outfits to conduct attacks, New Delhi’s resolve to retaliate against Islamabad after such an attack and Islamabad’s determination to defend itself are likely to persist and may increase in the next five years…Miscalculation by both governments could prompt a breakdown in the deterrence that has restricted conflict.”

It wrote: “The US policy in Afghanistan is likely to impact the neighbouring countries; especially India and Pakistan…if a security vacuum emerges in Afghanistan that results in a civil war between the Taliban and its Afghan opponents…would fuel political tensions and conflict in western Pakistan and sharpen the India-Pakistan rivalry.”

The report added “India and China may also slip into a conflict that neither government intends, especially if military forces escalate a conflict quickly to challenge each other on a critical part of the contested border.”

Notably, during the heightened days of the Cold War, many crises arose in Suez Canal, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam when the US and the former Soviet Union were willing to use atomic weapons, but, they stopped due to the fear of nuclear war which could eliminate both the superpowers.

Likewise, many occasions came between Pakistan and India during the Kargil crisis of 1998, Indian parliament’s attack by the militants in 2001 and particularly in 2008 in the post-Mumbai terror attacks when New Delhi started a blame game against Islamabad in wake of its highly provocative actions like mobilization of troops. Pakistan had also taken defensive steps to meet any prospective aggression.

But, India failed in implementing its war-like designs, because, Pakistan also possesses nuclear weapons.

Now, situation is alarming, as very tensions increased between India and Pakistan, India and China on August 5, 2019, when Indian extremist government revoked articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to the disputed territory of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

Indian government bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to be ruled by the federal government. New Delhi also issued an infamous map which displayed these divisions.

Besides Pakistan, China also rejected the Indian malicious acts as “unlawful and void”, saying that India’s decision to “include” some of China’s territory into its administrative jurisdiction “challenged” Beijing’s sovereignty.

India had escalated tensions with Islamabad particularly in the aftermath of the false flag terror attack at Puwama in the IIOJK.

On February 27, 2019, in response to the Indian so-called pre-emptive air strike in the town of Balakot, close to the border with Pakistan’s sector of Kashmir, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets and launched aerial strikes at six targets in the IIOJK.

Indian forces had also accelerated shelling inside Pakistani side of Kashmir by violating the ceasefire agreement across the Line of Control (LoC) and compelled Pakistan Army to give a matching reply.

In the recent past, the Director Generals of Military Operations of Pakistan and India had agreed to strictly observe the 2003 ceasefire agreement at the LoC. But, unless resolved, Kashmir will remain a nuclear flashpoint.

Similarly, drastic tensions arose between New Delhi and Beijing on 05 May last year, when India occupied various areas, adjacent to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

In response, Chinese forces moved into the regions along the eastern Ladakh border and get the disputed territories vacated.

After a number of rounds of talks, India and China completed their withdrawal from the Pangong Tso Lake area on 20 February 2021 in accordance with the agreement, signed by their commanders.

While, other parts of the border remain unsettled, and encouraged by the US President Joe Biden’s anti-China approach, Indian forces are making preparations for an all-out war with China. However, LAC is a nuclear flashpoint between the two countries.

It is mentionable that Indian ex-Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor had stated on 29 December 2010 that the Indian army is preparing for a “possible two-front war with China and Pakistan.”

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 16 August 2019 threatened Pakistan with nuclear war.

On 20 October 2020, hinting towards Islamabad and Beijing, Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval stated: “New India doctrine will take battle to foreign soil.”

In a latest statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who urged the resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions, warned that “any military confrontation between two nuclear powers-Pakistan and India would be a disaster for both countries and the whole world.”

Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG of ISPR, Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, Prime Minister Imran Khana and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have repeatedly stated that Pakistan’s armed forces “are ready to respond any Indian aggression with full might.”

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Lahore.

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