A war between nuclear powers India and Pakistan over Kashmir ‘would have global consequences’

Narendra Modi and Imran Khan
Ed Sykes

Pakistan’s leader has denounced his Indian counterpart and warned that any war between the nuclear rivals over the occupied region of Kashmir could “have consequences for the world”. In early August, Indian MPs passed a bill stripping statehood from the Indian-administered part of Kashmir amid an indefinite security lockdown. The government of neighbouring Pakistan immediately warned that these actions could lead to war.

India’s leader took the opposite approach at the UN, skipping any mention of his government’s brutal crackdown in Kashmir.

Two nuclear powers are on the brink of war. The world must pay attention.

“When a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders. It will have consequences for the world,” Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said in a wide-ranging UN General Assembly speech in which he called Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s actions in Kashmir “stupid” and “cruel”.

“That’s not a threat,” he said. “It’s a fair worry. Where are we headed?”

India reportedly has around 140 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan has around 160.

Khan has not shied away from mentioning the countries’ nuclear arsenals, and previously said:

A sane mind can’t think of a nuclear war…

I’m worried that, if this goes on, there can easily be a miscalculation. And that’s why the United Nations must act.

Indeed, as the Intercept says:

Indian officials have publicly indicated that they no longer intend to abide by a “no first use” nuclear weapons policy in any future conflict.

The Intercept explains that there have so far been reports of:

thousands of detentionscases of torture and death, and a communications blackout that has severed Kashmir from the rest of the world.


As University of Warwick associate professor Goldie Osuri stresses:

Scholars of Kashmir have called this process a constitutional occupation, and see the repeal of Article 370 as a “decades-long plan” to annex Kashmir.

And as she previously explained:

Since the 1990s, through a decade of armed struggle against the Indian state, state violence in Kashmir has taken its toll. …

The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society reports more than 70,000 killings, about 10,000 enforced disappearances and 7,000 mass graves (PDF).

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region. They have been locked in a worsening standoff since 5 August, when Modi stripped limited autonomy from the portion of Kashmir that India controls. His Hindu-nationalist government imposed a sweeping military curfew and cut off residents in the Muslim-majority region from virtually all communications.

“One silver lining in Modi’s actions”, the Intercept says, “has been the unintentional internationalization of the conflict” – because “after years of being relatively ignored, Kashmir is on the front pages of newspapers around the world”.

Dialogue urgently needed

As India’s recent actions have forced a significant deterioration in the situation, meanwhile, progressive leaders have spoken out.

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said:

And he has called for “urgent dialogue between India and Pakistan over the situation in Kashmir”.

Kashmir is also becoming an issue in the 2020 race for the White House:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, for example, has called India’s actions in Kashmir “a human rights crisis”, saying:

I believe the U.S. president must speak clearly in support of international humanitarian law and in support of a UN-backed peaceful resolution between India and Pakistan that respects the will of the Kashmiri people. Unfortunately, Trump has chosen to abandon the United States’ global leadership role. He is remaining silent on the Kashmir crisis while planning to hold a public rally with India’s prime minister.

This issue will not go away any time soon

Khan said there were currently 900,000 members of Indian forces in the region, policing eight million Kashmiris.

“What’s [Modi] going to do when he lifts the curfew? Does he think the people of Kashmir are quietly going to accept the status quo?” Khan said.

“What is going to happen when the curfew is lifted will be a bloodbath. They will be out in the streets. And what will the soldiers do? They will shoot them. Kashmiris will be further radicalised.”

An hour before Khan spoke, Modi addressed the UN meeting with a speech that failed to mention Kashmir directly. But he has previously defended the Kashmir changes as ‘freeing the territory from separatism’.

Ahead of their appearances at the UN, residents of Indian-controlled Kashmir expressed hope that their speeches would turn world attention to an unprecedented lockdown in the region. And as the two leaders spoke on Friday, large duelling protests supporting and opposing India’s action in Kashmir were taking place across the street from UN headquarters.

Featured image and additional content via Press Association

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  • Show Comments
    1. I think the scholars have it right, and especially Arundhati Roy who has written about the reckless racial tactics of Modi. I’d say he’s crazed with power and out to annex Kashmir as well.
      No rational human behavior working to think of alternatives here at all. I don’t think Pakistan or China is much different. It’s like watching a primitive animal looking into a mirror ,and becoming freaked , not realizing it’s looking at itself.
      Kashmir ought to be a neutral state like Switzerland, so they could spy on each other politely for their deeper understandings of the darkness they seem fascinated by.
      At least!
      They argue over death.

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