Every several years, India and Pakistan seem to face off over Kashmir, a disputed territory which both countries plus China claim some or all of. The disputes which are as old as the two nations in their modern state, are a time for nervousness among their neighbours. But is it really justified?
Countries with large populations of Indians and Pakistani’s such as Britain, which until 1947 was the colonial power in control of India and Pakistan, might have a few nerves over the escalation of tension between the two rivals. India and Pakistan have had three major wars, as well as significant periods of increased tension, such as this one. If one or the other inflicts large casualties British authorities would have to consider the possibility of violence between Indian and Pakistani nationals.
India’s ruling BJP Party consists of hardline Hindu’s including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Modi has done little during his time to ease tensions with his country’s largely Muslim neighbour, and claims Pakistan is an exporter of terrorism. For Pakistan’s part, a combination of foreign interference, Islamic militants, local corruption and an abiding distrust of its neighbours means Pakistan’s best efforts to change the international mindset are often found wanting.
A common flash point between India and Pakistan is Kashmir. It has been disputed since the partition of 1947. Many of the significant periods of tension referred to earlier have sprung up over Kashmir, which is heavily militarized and has a fortified border fence that India constructed. In 2002 a spat similar to the current one flared up over Kashmir, with 500,000 troops amassing in anticipation of a conflict in the region. After that, the C.I.A. did an analysis on the cost of a potential nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan – it would devastate the entire region, have world wide environmental, social and economic consequences and eventually lead to the loss of several hundred million people through the consequences of the nuclear fall out.
New Zealand has a large number of Indians living here, and a significantly smaller number of Pakistani’s. Aside from sporting ties vis a vis cricket and hockey, both are also members of the British Commonwealth. In taxi’s where the driver is from India or Pakistan, I have regularly heard them indicate their displeasure with the other country. Facebook articles regarding relations between the two nationalities have often shown a degree of anger directed at one another.
Despite the tensions and the mistrust, I do not believe that this is anything more serious than posturing. Neither India or Pakistan can afford the cost of a conventional conflict between the two with the large casualty lists and huge economic damage that this would generate. Neither will want this to escalate because although India numerically out numbers Pakistan in just about all categories of military equipment, Pakistan has been receiving significant support from China which is viewed by India as a potential rival for dominance in South Asia.
It will be interesting to see how this dispute plays out. India and Pakistan might be rivals off the cricket pitch – they are also rivals on it, and any match between the two is watched with significant interest around the world. With the Cricket World Cup happening in England in May, many will see this as a chance for one side or the other to try to assert a non military dominance.
Far better it be on a cricket pitch or hockey turf than in Kashmir. Far better it be cricket balls and bats than bullets and missiles.