Kashmir dispute can spark S. Asia’s nuclear fuse: US think tank

Says Kashmir neither India’s internal, nor bilateral matter

Washington, 26 August (KMS): A United States think-tank has warned the international community that the specter of nuclear war haunts tensions between India and Pakistan, and the disputed territory of Kashmir could provide the spark that lights South Asia’s nuclear fuse.

The think tank, Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform based in Austin, Texas in a report published on Saturday, also disputes the classification of the Kashmir issue as India’s ‘internal affair’ or a ‘bilateral’ issue between India and Pakistan. “It isn’t. A potential nuclear conflagration cannot be anything other than a matter of international peace and security,” the report warns.

According to the report, the possibility of the conflict going nuclear has increased on August 16 when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh seemed to abandon India’s “no first use” doctrine.

Mr Singh tweeted that “India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in the future depends on the circumstances”. And “the circumstances are not hopeful”, the report adds. The report argues that with passions again running high in Kashmir, the stakes for the region and the world could not be higher. “Decades ago, the people of Kashmir were promised a plebiscite that never took place. Will they ever be asked what they want?” it asked.

The report maintains that both Indian and Pakistani armed forces possess both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, which local commanders could use on the battlefield in populated areas. “This would be the first use in war of atomic weapons since the US destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945,” the report adds.

It further recalls that in February, Pakistan downed an Indian fighter jet but returned its pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, on March 1.

Indian PM Narendra Modi “did not acknowledge Islamabad’s conciliatory gesture. Nor has his government been willing to discuss Kashmir,” whose people were promised a plebiscite on their future by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1947.

Giving a historical perspective of the Kashmir conflict, the report mentions that the promised vote never took place, but several wars have.

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