Pakistan and India are suffering some of the worst tensions in recent years over continued strife in Indian-held Kashmir.
A recent militant attack on an Indian military base left 18 soldiers dead, and New Delhi has blamed Islamabad for masterminding the assault. In the aftermath, simmering tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors have threatened to boil over.
Protests and militant attack raises tensions
Anti-government protests in Indian-held Kashmir have been a massive source of controversy in recent months. More than 80 people have died in clashes between protesters and Indian security forces, the vast majority of them anti-government activists.
India has struggled to contain pro-Pakistan feeling in Kashmir. A recent episode in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh also raised concerns in New Delhi. On Tuesday protesters from the Congress party gathered to raise awareness about the Uri attack that left 18 soldiers dead.
However activists at the rally repeatedly chanted pro-Pakistan slogans, such as “Pakistan Zindabad.” Indian media sources that support current Prime Minister Narendra Modi were angered by the pro-Pakistan slogans, and slammed the activists. On Indian TV certain hosts were seen asking whether the rally was in fact pro-Pakistan.
It has since been reported that certain officials and activists from the Congress party have been charged with sedition. The Modi government is also reportedly spending $150 million on a censor-equipped security system that will detect anyone who tries to infiltrate India by land or sea.
Armed forces ready to deal with any incursion
For its part the Pakistan Army announced on Tuesday that it was keeping a close eye on the national border with India. Sources said that Pakistan was “fully prepared to respond” to any situation.
“We are closely monitoring the developments on the eastern border and we are fully prepared to respond,” said military spokesman Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa following a security meeting in Peshawar.
Pakistan has denied that it had any involvement in the Uri attack. The bitter controversy was the subject of discussions at the United Nations General Assembly last week, with each side canvassing for support.
According to Bajwa the latest meeting addressed border management roles being undertaken by the Pakistan Army. Work has reportedly been completed on 20 border management posts.
Pakistan, Russia joint military drills progressing smoothly
Tensions between the two nations have been further inflamed by joint military exercises between Pakistan and Russia. The exercises are ongoing and according to the ISPR they are progressing well.
The “Friendship 2016” exercise started on September 24 and will end on October 10. It involves 200 troops from both countries, and marks the first time that Pakistan and Russia have undertaken joint military drills.
India has been left uneasy by the improved relationship between Pakistan and Russia. Islamabad and Moscow were enemies during the Cold War, with India traditionally enjoying a close relationship with Russia.
However India has started to buy more weapons from the United States and Israel, encouraging Russia to lift an arms embargo on Pakistan. The geopolitical situation remains highly complicated, but politicians in New Delhi are worried about losing a regional ally in the shape of Moscow.
As India calls for war, here is a voice of reason
While some elements in India are calling for war with Pakistan, others recognize that such a course of action would ultimately be fruitless. Alongside political complications, the pure military questions are highly complicated.
India has an advantage in terms of conventional weapons, but it couldn’t commit fully to war with Pakistan and leave its borders with China unguarded. Beijing has a close relationship with Islamabad and a historical enmity with New Delhi.
Then there is the question of nuclear weapons. Both India and Pakistan are estimated to hold over 100 nuclear warheads each. India has a no first-strike policy, but Pakistan does not.
Indian commentators such as Sanjiv Krishan Sood are worried about the potential for a low yield nuclear strike on advancing Indian troops on Pakistani soil. The possibility of a nuclear strike is one that is a major worry for both sides, and could slow the drums of war.
Another consideration is the economic impact of war. The Indian economy is growing fairly well, and war would endanger that growth. It would also devastate the Pakistani economy. Both countries would take decades to recover from the ravages of war.
Even as voices in India call for war, the case against conflict is a convincing one. Instead of encouraging an ill thought out conflict, it would be better for both sides to come to a peaceful solution. It seems unlikely that the historic tensions between Pakistan and India will end over night, but the potential for a nuclear strike and economic disaster should help to keep the peace.