Kashmir and Korea: A Tale of War And Peace

Kim Jong-un’s private train is currently in China as he takes a long rail journey to Vietnam where on the 27th of February he will meet Donald Trump in Hanoi, in order to further the ongoing Korean peace process. But while tensions in nuclear Korea have been rapidly cooling since last year, 2018 was the deadliest year on record for Kashmir in a decade, whilst this month has brought India and Pakistan closer to the brink of war than at anytime since 1999.

As Indian troops, tanks and other military vehicles pile into IOK (Indian Occupied Kashmir), people are saying in doors and expecting the worst.

Ever since last week’s Pulwama incident, Indian politicians and mainstream Indian media have been agitating for so-called “revenge” with the Times of India even going so far as to publish an opinion piece titled “Pakistan must be destroyed!” But whilst the rhetoric has become literally insane and whilst the mobilisation of heavy arms and thousands more troops into IOK is troublesome, it remains difficult to tell whether India is about to commence a full scale war against Pakistan, or whether the mass mobilisation is a carefully stage managed bluff that may eventually backup what in 2016, India called a “surgical strike” – one which ultimately had no real impact on anything.

That being said, the current mobilisation of Indian troops into IOK is much more vast than that which occurred in the aftermath of the Uri incident in 2016. Of course, the other big difference between today and 2016 is that this Spring, India will hold general elections in which Primer Modi’s BJP is clearly going to face some unexpected difficulties.

The combination of the failure of the BJP’s demonetisation scheme, the Rafale deal controversy, agitated farming communities in the BJP’s northern heartlands and a wealth gap that remains incredibly substantial by international standards, already saw the BJP losing ground to the Congress led opposition coalition in last year’s local elections. Crucially these loses occurred in the so-called traditionally pro-BJP “cow belt”.

As such, it is not beyond the realm of the possible that the Modi government could try and start a war with Pakistan in order to ride a wave of jingoism to electoral victory in the coming months. Of course, Pakistan had no part in the Pulwama incident, but it was self-evident from the moment the dust settled that India and its supporters in the international media would not allow the fact that the group which claimed responsibility for the incident has been banned in Pakistan since 2002, to get in the way of India’s ultra-nationalistic narrative.

In this sense, Modi must clearly be operating in gambling mode. If he thinks he can start and win a short war, it will in fact likely help the BJP’s electoral chances in the Spring. If however, the war were to go badly for India, this could backfire badly and consequently help the opposition that have already adopted the opportunistic narrative which asserts that the BJP have not been too repressive, but instead have been “too soft” on Kashmir.

But what for India’s ruling party is a blood-soaked game of blackjack, is for the civilians of Kashmir, the civilians of Pakistan and for the wider world, the prospect of another war between two major nuclear powers that are both going in entirely different political directions. It is utterly unconscionable that at a time when the entire world is justifiably applauding the peace process in Korea, this same international community should turn itself deaf, dumb and blind to India’s aggressive mobilisation in IOK.

Whether New Delhi seeks to draw Pakistan into a first strike scenario or whether the entire thing is a vulgar intimidation tactic, the international community must act before it is too late. The UN must proscribe any and all Indian acts of aggression against Pakistan or against Kashmiris in the wake of last week’s incident whilst furthermore, the UN should recognise that while Pakistan continues to call for a dialogue based approach to the decades burning Kashmir crisis, India’s only answer has been shrieks of “revenge”, threats of destruction and now a large scale military mobilisation.

While Korea’s war has been stalled by an armistice since 1953, during that same period, India and Pakistan have fought three formal wars (1965, 1971, 1999), with many smaller proxy conflicts occurring throughout the interim period.

Today, Pakistan is prepared to defend itself although Prime Minister Imran Khan’s olive branch still remains outstretched. There is little chance that Modi will take hold of the olive branch, but it is imperative that the UN recognises this reality for what it is and acts to stop any aggressive Indian war before it begins. The hour is already late, but as of now, it is still not too late.

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