A Holy Tug-of-War

The South Asian province of Kashmir has become a nuclear flash point.

International pressure, particularly from the Group of Eight leading industrial nations, has now provided temporary relief to the perpetually escalating “holy” tug-of-war between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently endorsed the immediate removal of Mujahedeen (Muslim holy warriors) who had penetrated India beyond the Line of Control which separates India and Pakistan.

Each side is locked in a conflict born in the aftermath of British colonial rule. It’s a war of symbolic importance that points to the heritage of both nations.

India is Hindu-dominated, while Pakistan is Islamic to the core. Kashmir is an Indian-governed, Muslim-dominated border province that separates these countries. This is the heart of the dispute for the two new nuclear powers as they face each other.

Kashmir is the highest and most remote battlefield on earth. The war takes place over the Siachen Glacier in the Himalayan Mountains.

These are two of the world’s poorest nations, spending vast amounts of their feeble gross domestic product on this glacial war.

India far outweighs Pakistan militarily. However, in May 1998, when India conducted underground nuclear tests, Pakistan immediately reciprocated. Both countries’ recent abrupt induction into the world nuclear club has struck fear into Western nations whose policy has been to use weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent, not a means of active war.

In 1971 the two nations fought a full-scale war; since that time over 30,000 have perished in the ongoing conflict. Both sides have used the lengthy conflict to build immense national pride.

This toxic mix of relentless one-upmanship is forcing the Kashmir issue onto the world stage, with both sides adding to the continuous links of an endless chain of war. Neither side is gaining any territory. Their purpose is to wear down the enemy by attrition, till one caves in.

The problem is, neither side shows signs of caving.

Now this regional war is set to escalate. “The fruitless war” has become a revolving door of acceptable retaliation. The fight over Kashmir is nothing more than a religious war of Muslim versus Hindu.

Since withdrawal from colonial India, Pakistan has been intent on showing its own Islamic sustainability. That is why it retaliated against India and exploded its own nuclear bomb.

In India, however, the ultimate dream is to see its wayward Muslim border brother drawn back to the traditional Hindu fold.

With global attention diverted by the nato Kosovo debacle, world watchers should view more closely this escalating regional “holy” war of tit for tat.

With Pakistan versus India, North versus South Korea versus Japan, Indonesian civil crises and China versus all comers, the Asian fuse is leading to a regional explosion of unprecedented proportions.