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:. . South Asia:. . Kashmir

Since independence India and Pakistan have gone to war on three occasions. During the first war (1947), Pakistan successfully seized large areas of the old kingdom of Kashmir, but these were the less desirable and less populated regions. In the second (1965) and third (1971) wars, India successfully defended the highly populated and productive parts of Kashmir that it controlled and badly defeated Pakistan.

Today Pakistan still seems determined to gain control of India's state of Kashmir. Pakistan argues that most Kashmiris are Muslim and desire to join Pakistan, but are prevented from doing so by an oppressive Indian government and army. India seems equally determined to keep control of the state of Kashmir. After 50 years both sides still claim they support the idea of holding a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiri people. But no plebiscite has been held for 50 years, and neither Pakistan nor India appears to be willing or able to compromise. Kashmir will remain a flash point that could ignite a new war between the two countries at any moment.

The threat of war is particularly frightening given the weaponry each country possesses. Both countries have conducted nuclear testing. India carried out five underground nuclear tests in the deserts of Rajasthan province in western India on May 11 and 13, 1998; Pakistan responded with its own series of nuclear tests on May 28 and 30. At about the same time, both countries tested missile systems that could deliver nuclear bombs. The tests were widely popular in both India and Pakistan and defenders of the tests in both countries stressed that their respective countries were acting defensively and had legitimate security fears. Currently, India’s planes and missiles are capable of reaching every major city in Pakistan; Pakistan does not yet have the ability of striking all of India's cities.

World leaders are fearful that nuclear weapons in the hands of the leaders of these two countries have greatly heightened the possibility of a nuclear war. In response to this fear, the United States vigorously denounced the Indian tests when they occurred and urged the Pakistanis not to respond. When the Pakistanis responded, the United States immediately imposed economic sanctions on both countries. Japan followed suit. Other major nations such as China, France, and Russia condemned the tests, but they refused to impose sanctions.

Many critics of the tests argue that both India and Pakistan have a misplaced sense of priorities. They argue that both countries should be investing in improving the economic security of their citizens instead of their military hardware. India and Pakistan’s actions have also threatened attempts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

 







 


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Kashmir and Its People..| History of Kashmir..|..Partition, 1947-49..|..Kashmir, 1949-89..|..Terrorism and Repression in Kashmir..|..Kashmir's Future
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