As the Pakistan Army vows to protect its people from all forms of “aggression” from India, how serious a threat is it?

On Tuesday, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa vowed to protect the people of Pakistan against all forms of “Indian aggression.”  His vow comes as Islamabad accuses India of being involved in a string of terrorist attacks that rocked Pakistan last week, leaving more than 100 Pakistanis dead and several hundreds of others injured.

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While tensions between the two South Asian countries are running high, there’s a high chance the Pak-Indian conflict could spiral out of control and lead to war — possibly involving nuclear weapons. The two nations have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947, and fighting their fourth could bring disastrous consequences to the whole world, experts warn.

Will India and Pakistan go to war over terrorism claims?

While visiting troops along the Line of Control (LoC), Bajwa accused India of “committing ceasefire violations across the Line of Control” and said Islamabad is fully aware of “the Indian designs and its support to terror in Pakistan and the region.”

Several other high-ranking Pakistani officials and political figures have accused India of being responsible for last week’s brutal terrorist attacks across Pakistan. Bajwa claims that India’s ceasefire violations on the border are an attempt to distract the Pakistani Army from fighting against terrorism in the country.

As India recently renewed its diplomatic push to get the international community to declare Pakistan a terrorist state, reported Indian firings along the LoC resulted in the deaths of three Pakistani soldiers last week. The alleged ceasefire violations from India’s side coincided with a series of violent terrorist attacks across Pakistan last week.

“Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadev is one such evidence of these efforts and his case will be taken to the logical conclusion,” Gen. Bajwa said, referring to a spy who was arrested last March and confessed that India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was responsible for destabilizing Pakistan by supporting the Baloch separatist insurgency.

India vs. Pakistan: which military is stronger?

While one can argue that Pakistan could easily retaliate for the deaths of its people as a result of last week’s terrorist attacks, there’s a chance it could go to war with India if it finds evidence that New Delhi was responsible for the brutal terrorist acts that left at least 100 people dead.

India, which has 1.3 million active military personnel, seemingly has a serious advantage against Pakistan’s 620,000-strong army. While one can argue that India is militarily better-equipped than Pakistan, Islamabad also has ties to China – one of the strongest militaries in the world.

Although India has strong relations with the U.S., it cannot rely on Washington’s support in a military confrontation – especially during Donald Trump’s presidency. Pakistan can most certainly rely on China’s military support, however. China and Pakistan share deep military ties and have a long history of friendship lasting for decades. Additionally, protecting Pakistan in any military conflict would be of top priority for China because protecting Islamabad would equal protecting their joint multi-billion dollar China-Economic Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Naval advantage goes to China over India

While Pakistan loses to India in terms of naval power (its fleet strength is 197 against India’s 295), China could offer its long-time ally a serious advantage on the sea, providing a 714-strong fleet (that’s 911 Pak-China combined). Pakistan’s aircraft strength is about half the size of India’s: 923 aircraft units of all types versus India’s 2,086.

However, Pakistan has nearly three times more attack helicopters than India, at 52 versus 19. If China is added into this equation, the Pak-China military alliance would hold 3,865 aircraft units of all types in total and 252 attack helicopters combined to go to war against India.

India also has a significant shortage of self-propelled artillery. Even without military assistance from China, Pakistan dominates India in the number of self-propelled guns (462 versus India’s 290). The navy is a weak spot for India, which has only one functional nuclear Akula-class Chakra. China, for its part, boasts five nuclear attack submarines and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

Nuclear war would bring disastrous consequences

Although India holds the status of being the largest arms importer in the world, the modernization of its own armed forces has been rather slow in the past few years.

When it comes to nuclear strength, Pakistan has a slight advantage, boasting between 100 and 130 warheads against India’s 90 to 110 nukes. In the 1990s when the two countries were also close to fighting a nuclear war, Pakistan’s nuclear-equipped planes were reportedly left with their engines running 24/7, allowing them to attack the enemy at any given time.

Last month, Pakistan and India participated in a war of nuclear tests when they carried out missile tests on the same day, sending shivers down the planet’s spine. While Islamabad successfully tested its surface-to-surface ballistic nuclear-capable missile Ababeel, which is capable of reaching targets at a range of 2,200 kilometers (that’s three times the distance between Islamabad and New Delhi), India unveiled its own guided Pinaka multi-barrel launcher.

While the mere mention of nuclear war is rather chilling, a 2006 study by climatologists confirmed that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan would result in disastrous and irreparable consequences for the planet. The study estimated that if Islamabad and New Delhi used 50 nuclear warheads against one another, at least 20 million people would be killed from the explosion and its aftereffects in the first seven days.

The study further found that “the firestorms generated by these nuclear explosions would loft about 5 million tons of black soot high into the atmosphere.” As a result, surface temperature across the world would decrease by an average of 1.3 degrees Celsius.

Neither Pakistan nor India has signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Further, New Delhi is adamant to increase its military power. Researchers found that India purchased $34 billion worth of weapons between 2008 and 2015, which is more than any country in the world except Saudi Arabia.