Kashmir Dispute – Could It Result in the Use of Nuclear Weapons?

  • This is not the first time China has backed Pakistan and the Chinese have a certain influence within the region.
  • An estimate suggests India has around 200 nuclear warheads in its arsenal.
  • Concerns have been raised in the Western media about India's change to its nuclear doctrine, which will allow the use of nuclear weapons first.

India revoked Kashmir’s special status with a rush decree. A presidential decree issued on August 5, 2019 removed Article 370 of India’s constitution that provided special rights to Kashmir, which is also the Muslim-majority state. The state lost its unique constitution and the right to implement their own laws. India sent military troops to the region in anticipation of protests.

Source: Mapsofindia.com

The territory is divided between India and Pakistan. Both nations have a large concentration of military troops along the border line.  The de-facto Azad Kashmir (unrecognized) is also making a claim for the  control of the region.

Meanwhile, the situation is escalating and can reach dangerous levels. Historically, India and Pakistan have been embroiled in a myriad of conflicts including the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which resulted in Pakistan’s loss of Bangladesh.

China is supporting Pakistan to take the case to the United Nations Security Council on behalf of Kashmir. This is not the first time China has backed Pakistan and the Chinese have a certain influence within the region. A few years back, a former Indian defense minister accused China of using Pakistan to attack India.

Image Source: Indiatimes

An estimate suggests India has around 200 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, after testing their first atomic bomb in the 1974. In comparison, Pakistan had its own atomic bomb sometime between 1977-1983. Concerns have been raised in the Western media about India’s change to its nuclear doctrine, which will allow the use of nuclear weapons first. However, these claims remain speculative.

In June 2019, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) pointed out that India was rapidly expanding its infrastructure for nuclear weapons.

India and Pakistan are secretive about their nuclear arsenals. A retired Pakistani Brigadier General Feroze Khan previously claimed Pakistan has 120 nuclear warheads. Additionally, multiple Pakistani experts claim the country is using the NATO Cold War doctrine, proposing the tactical use of nuclear weapons against an enemy.

NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the 1950s and 1960s agreed about two things regarding combat on the Central front. First, Warsaw Pact forces would quickly overrun NATO forces, achieving rates of advance across Western Europe that exceeded even those of World War II. Second, both NATO and the Warsaw Pact would make plentiful use of tactical nuclear weapons, both to break up enemy formations and also to pave the way for advancing forces.

Consequently, the Indian government tends to believe US President Donald Trump will not put pressure or implement sanctions against India for attempting to change its nuclear program. The last time the US was instrumental in sanctions enforcement against India and Pakistan was in 1998. The economic sanctions caused significant financial losses for both nations.

It is also noticeable as of late US-Pakistan relations have been challenging.

China is taking an opportunity to pursue own geopolitical interests in the region and Russia is not far behind. The primary focus of the US has been on North Korea and Iran.

Meanwhile, the tensions between India and Pakistan continue to rise. Multiple scenarios could play out in the region, if the UN Security Council does not resolve the Kashmir issue favorably. Pakistan could believe India is moving into its territory and hastily use nuclear weapons to attack India with China’s backing. Another hypothetical scenario would involve terrorist attacks within India. The raids by Indian military on militants in Pakistan could be interpreted as an act of war, justifying the use of nuclear weapons. Both scenarios are “last resort” options. At the same time, no one truly knows the nuclear doctrines of India or Pakistan.

The arsenal possessed by both India and Pakistan is not enough to cause global nuclear disaster, but could lead to catastrophic ramifications for the people living in the region, including starvation, disease and climate change.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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