Is the Kashmir crisis primed to reignite?

Is the Kashmir crisis primed to reignite?

By Luke Vargas   
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi salutes the coffins of paramilitary police killed in a car bomb attack in Kashmir. February 15, 2019. Courtesy: Office of the Prime Minister of India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi salutes paramilitary police killed in a car bomb attack in Kashmir, after some of their coffins arrived at Indira Ghandi International Airport in Delhi on Friday. (Courtesy: Office of the Prime Minister of India)

Pakistani militants staged the deadliest attack on Indian troops in Kashmir in some three decades this week, killing at least 46 people.

UNITED NATIONS – Indian forces in the contested region of Kashmir came under attack this week as a car bomb killed at least 46 paramilitary police, the deadliest attack in Kashmir in some three decades.

Indian officials were quick to blame the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad for the attack, and even alleged the Pakistani government was involved in planning it in the first place.

Asfandyar Mir, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, says India will likely retaliate in the days ahead, but will try to calibrate its response to appease hawks at home while minimizing the risk of a dangerous escalation.

“What we’re likely to see is some sort of air strike, maybe a barrage of artillery fire in the region of Kashmir, and then India will try to sort of stem it just at that level, because if it spirals beyond that point, then the risk of nuclear weapons coming into play becomes very real, and then both sides of nuclear weapons and we could have absolute destruction.”

That risk of nuclear war is both a reason to fear an escalation, and to think that unlikely.

The U.S. has a history of brokering crisis talks between India and Pakistan, and despite President Trump’s embrace of India’s government in recent years and his public rebukes of Pakistan, Mir thinks the U.S. retains enough leverage to step into that role again.

“While the U.S. is very close to India, it has also increasingly relied on Pakistan the last six months or so in a bid to terminate the conflict in Afghanistan. And for reasons of history and for reasons of current geopolitics, I think the Pakistanis are likely to also sort of look toward the U.S. to diffuse the situation if it appears to be getting out of control.”

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