John Stimson warns in a detailed, factual article—“Are India and Pakistan Sliding Toward War?” — that rising tensions over Kashmir – and poor relations between Modi and Pakistan – could lead soon to war. I don’t disagree with the points he assembles. Kashmir is always a tinderbox, and right now, is indeed alarming. India and Pakistan have fought four wars since Independence. Terrorist groups, some with ties to Pakistan’s strong ISI, can provoke confrontations. The Subcontinent always seems on edge.
However, here are four points to suggest relations between India and Pakistan may get worse but not reach actual head-on full-scale combat between regular armed forces.
- Modi will hopefully be a calming influence. It is true that he leads the BHP, which is not overly friendly toward Pakistan. But as the old saying goes, “war stifles reform.” If India gets distracted by war, it will stifle his program of forcing through tough economic reforms. That program means far more to him and his party’s future than posturing with Pakistan.
- Each country has a good military reason not to fight. The Indian military weaponry is, frankly, backward. India has been on a shopping spree of foreign arms purchases. But it still has a long way to escape its situation after the Mumbai terror attack by terrorists from Pakistani-supported groups, when India’s land forces were simply not in shape to strike back.
- Pakistan has an internal war against militants, especially the Pakistan Taliban. The war is long past the point of full hostilities. Pakistan’s armed forces would face a two-front war if they took on India. (It must be admitted, though, that it is never far from the minds of the Pakistani military that they might fight with India, and so they are probably ready to cope with India.)
- Other powers will pour oil on trouble waters. The United States has been trying to work with Pakistan about several vital issues, especially Afghanistan; at the same time, the United States is trying to form a low-key alliance with Modi against resurgent China. So the United States will try to cool down both sides. (In a prev’ ious article, though, I did suggest that the United States’ sharing of military and nuclear technology with India might rile Pakistan.) China is Pakistan’s ally, but it does not want to be India’s enemy, nor would it want a defeat to destabilize Pakistan. So China will not be an opponent of peace.
So: while war is definitely something to worry about, hope for peace
“Are (Modi’s) India and (Sharif’s) Pakistan Sliding Toward War?” — Let’s Hope Not