The threat of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India is not yet over and will continue to loom unless both countries address the core issue of their conflict — Kashmir, cautioned an editorial in The New York Times.
The editorial, which was published on Thursday, noted that though the recent escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbours in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack — that took place last month in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama district and killed over 40 Indian soldiers — had simmered down, the threat of another serious confrontation could not be ruled out until both countries make serious efforts to solve the Kashmir dispute.
“A solution to a conflict that touches so many religious and nationalist nerves must ultimately come from within, through talks among India, Pakistan and the people of [occupied]Kashmir. It’s a long shot, and the protagonists have shown no serious interest, but that’s the reality nonetheless,” it read.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged New Delhi to hold dialogue over the Kashmir conflict more than once since he assumed power last year and has warned that continued suppression of Kashmiris by the Indian forces will result in grim consequences.
The editorial also highlighted the importance of United States’ intervention in the issue.
India had blamed Pakistan for the Pulwama attack, that was carried out by a Kashmiri youth and was claimed by Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), a group that has been proscribed in Pakistan since 2002. The accusation was vehemently rejected by Islamabad but Prime Minister Khan, in order to prevent a confrontation, promised that if India shared “actionable evidence”, Pakistan would investigate it.
The situation became tense after India violated Pakistani airspace last week and claimed to have “struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot” in which “a large number of JeM terrorists were killed”. The Indian jet was chased away after “Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled” and released its “payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot”, Inter-Services Public Relations had said. The payload had fallen in a forest and felled a few trees and injured an elderly resident of the area.
Pakistan responded the next day by striking non-military targets on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC). Two Indian jets, that violated Pakistan’s airspace again, were shot down and an Indian pilot was captured.
According to New York Times, the conflict could have spiralled out of control had Pakistan not released the Indian pilot, Abhinandan, two days after his capture as a “gesture of peace”.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan returned the pilot to India, in what was seen as a good-will gesture, called for talks and promised an investigation into the bombing. [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi took the opportunity to back off further escalation,” the editorial said.
The situation across the LoC remained tense for a few days following the airstrikes but the tensions have reduced. India also sent a dossier regarding the Pulwama attack that is being examined by authorities.
Pakistani authorities have also launched a crackdown against extremist outfits and more than 40 suspected militants have been taken under “preventive custody”. Multiple seminaries and mosques said to be linked to groups such as JeM and Jamaatud Dawa have also been taken over by government authorities.
“The two countries have crossed into dangerous territory, with India attacking Pakistan and engaging in aerial duels. The next confrontation, or the one after that, could be far more unthinkable,” the editorial warns.