South Asian Nuclear Parity Opens Door for Resolving Kashmir
June 7, 1998
The nuclear devices detonated by India and Pakistan over the course of the last three weeks finally and without ambiguity achieve a state of nuclear parity in South Asia. Both Pakistan and India are now not only equals but also have equal potential to inflict damage beyond imagination upon each other.
However, achieving nuclear parity does not deter war, it only deters nuclear war. Any further testing, or more unsettling, deployment by either Pakistan or India can only heighten tensions in a region dangerously close to open hostilities.
Unfortunately, both the Nawaz regime and the new BJP government continue to embark down a dangerous road of escalation. South Asia cannot afford a costly arms race, the result of which can be only further impoverishment of our peoples.
South Asians themselves should not allow the tensions to escalate into a full-blown arms race. As a needed and constructive first step, Pakistan and India should immediately sign a “no first use” pledge, cease further tests and refrain from any active deployment.
Washington and other world powers are now considering how to clean up what they see as a nuclear mess, a mess that we feel has been exacerbated by decades of American pressure on the wrong party, Pakistan, and decades of compliance towards India, the hostile aggressor in the region.
This is the time for the international community to put aside its punitive measures (sanctions will not put the nuclear genie back in the bottle), and immediately and with vigour assume a pro-active, constructive and positive role in the worsening South Asian crisis, a crisis triggered by the unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute which has cast a fifty year shadow over South Asia.
This is the time for international leadership. For South Asia, and for the world at large, it is not enough to simply express displeasure, put sanctions into effect and walk away. Proliferation is too serious a business to leave to two warring governments that have shown an inability to grasp the horrendous consequences that can flow from their conflict.
South Asia needs an honest broker to mediate a dispute that remains the longest unresolved agenda item of the Security Council.
In the end, the international community must come to see that the South Asian arms race in itself is not the crisis, rather the intractable conflict of Kashmir.
With each passing day, tens of innocent Kashmiris die at the hand of the brutal Indian occupation; hundreds more remain in jail without hope of seeing the light of day, millions more live lives of fear and repression.
Two of the three Indo-Pak wars have been fought over Kashmir. Since 1989 alone, over 20,000 people – a conservative estimate – have died in the struggle for ‘Azadi’, or freedom. India has stationed over 600,000 troops in Jammu-Kashmir, a territory no larger than the US State of Illinois.
Resolve Kashmir, South Asia’s flash point, and we take a great step forward in reducing the need for nuclear arsenals.
There are solutions. Pakistan and particularly India would benefit from active leadership from the world powers. First and foremost, the international community should immediately empower the UN Security Council with a vigorous mandate to find a mediated solution to the half-century conflict, keeping in mind the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
There should be unambiguous commitments by the permanent members of the UN Security Council to fulfill finally and without reservation the existing UN resolutions for Kashmir, and to do so within a multilateral framework that addresses the security of all nations in South Asia.
Specifically, the United States can and should chair, in conjunction with China, Russia and Britain, a peace process for Kashmir. Britain has already indicated its willingness to assist. President Clinton’s envoy to Ireland was successful there; it is a model that may also have a salutary affect in South Asia.
No process leading to the fair and equitable resolution of the fifty-year Kashmir conflict can move forward, however, without concrete steps by both Pakistan and India.
On India’s part, there are a number of confidence-building measures to be taken immediately, including:
* A dramatic reduction of the nearly 600,000 troops stationed in Kashmir.
* Ceasing all forms of torture, intimidation and extra-judicial killings.
* Opening Jammu-Kashmir to monitoring by international human rights groups. Likewise, on the part of Pakistan, it is high time that we consider:
* Providing observer status for the rightful representatives of the people of Kashmir, namely the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, in all deliberations.
* Softening borders in conjunction with India to allow freer movement between families, increasing trade
and strengthening cultural ties.
In 1954, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s father Joseph Korbel wrote that, “Kashmir has become a veritable powder keg for the whole of Asia.” This is even more true today.
The time has come for all South Asians to realise that we cannot bequeath to the coming century the bitterness of the past. Nuclear parity demands a maturity that we no longer have the luxury to ignore.