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Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan close to war over Kashmir

Kashmiri students in Dehradun protest after hostel managers forced some of them from their lodgings just as far right mobs hunted them

February 22, 2019

India and Pakistan are once more on the brink of terrible conflict.

And again the disputed and divided region of Kashmir is at the centre of a war of words traded by Indian and Pakistani political leaders.

At least 44 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a car bomb attack in Kashmir last week. A Kashmiri militant group aligned with Pakistan-based jihadists claimed responsibility.

India’s hard right prime minister Narendra Modi wasted no time in promising retaliation. He vowed to “avenge every tear” and said, “The fire that is raging in your hearts is in my heart too.”

Military chiefs and media armchair generals are only too pleased to oblige.

They insist on “surgical” missile strikes on targets in Pakistan, launched from the Indian side of the “line of control” that divides Kashmir between the two countries. Indian commandos have already mounted cross border raids, but TV pundits demand these be just the opening skirmishes of a greater war.

On Thursday an Indian government minister reiterated a plan to restrict the flow of water to Pakistan. "Our government has decided to stop our share of water which used to flow to Pakistan,” said Nitin Gadkari, transport and water resources minister. He added that the country would divert water from eastern rivers and supply it to Indians in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab states.

Bombing

Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan said his military had nothing to do with the suicide bombing but would immediately respond to any attack by India. “Pakistan will not just think about retaliating – we will retaliate,” he said.

Modi is increasingly worried that he and his BJP party will do badly in parliamentary elections that are just months away, particulalry after mass protests by women and a strike by tens of millions of workers

He calculates that conflict with Pakistan could energise his support base.

But many fear that this could mean India’s military planners miscalculate the mood in Pakistan, and trigger an escalation between the two nuclear-armed powers.

And, already there has been a violent response to the bombing in India itself, with far right thugs targeting Kashmiris across the country.

Earlier this week, students living in a hostel in Dehradun, in the north of India, were threatened by a mob looking for any Kashmiri they could find. Hostel bosses, instead of protecting them, threw them onto the street.

But there also many heroic stories of Indian families sheltering Kashmiri friends and neighbours from the mobs.

Powers

The India-Pakistan conflict is part of a bigger geopolitical battle in which the world powers have taken sides to further their own interests.

China is heavily invested in Pakistan, and wants increasing access to its gas reserves and natural resources. It is financing mega-projects from power plants to a 2,000 mile road linking China to Pakistan’s deep water port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea.

A long term enemy of India’s with its own ongoing border dispute with New Delhi, China is keen that its client state is not dominated by its rival.India formed a key part of the US “war on terror” and today, as opponent of China, retains a strong strategic relationship.

The governments of India and Pakistan have no genuine interest in the lives of ordinary people in their countries, and neither do their backers in Beijing and Washington.

The only way out of the permanent round of military conflict is for ordinary people across South Asia to see they have more in common with each other than they do with their rulers.

That means giving Kashmiri people themselves the right to determine whether their state belongs in Pakistan, India or as an independent nation.

Reposted from Socialist Worker (UK)

 

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