The Indian-Pakistani Conflict

A War Between Nuclear Powers and Its Consequences for the World


Victor Hvozd

One of the notable consequences of the formation of a new multipolar world, taking place in recent years, is the actual violation of the whole system of international relations, which was formed after the end of the “Cold War”. In this regard, the most dangerous is the loss of effectiveness of nuclear arms control agreements, concluded between the USA and the USSR, and then — Russia.

As we have already pointed out, the reason for that was the obtaining of such weapons by countries that are not considered parties to the aforementioned agreements, do not want to join them and are not subject to international control. In particular, today, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have nuclear weapons and diverse missile systems, including medium and long-range. Possibly, Iran has it as well.

…Despite the fact that Russia bluntly ignores the Budapest Memorandum, it continues to play the basis role of the international legal framework for ensuring Ukraine’s security…

This situation is getting aggravated in the face of confrontation between nuclear countries, which does not exclude their use of missile and nuclear weapons in case of a possible military conflict. At the strategic level, we mean the confrontation between the USA and Russia, which, in fact, has resumed and has become a new “Cold War”. At this, both countries have begun to actively increase their missile and nuclear potentials, and resumed rehearsing possible war scenarios, while demonstrating force and resorting to military provocations.

However, both, the United States and Russia are aware of the critical danger of their possible military clash that is likely to result in a nuclear disaster of a worldwide scale. Therefore, despite the mutual aggressive rhetoric and active military preparations, both parties refrain from the real use of military force, even in the minimal scale.

Geography of the Conflict for the Control Over Kashmir

This cannot be said about India and Pakistan. They also have nuclear weapons, they are in a long-term conflict over the control of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This confrontation began in 1947, after the division of British India into the present India and Pakistan, and does not cease to this day. Permanent border clashes of the parties from time to time grow into local wars. In particular, the largest of them occurred in 1947–1949, in 1965 and in 1971. Armed conflicts in the conflict zone had also intensified significantly in the period 1987–2001. Since 2015, there has been another aggravation in the region, which may turn into a new Indian-Pakistani war.

For example, February 14, 2019, an Islamic suicide bomber attacked a transport column of the Indian police in Kashmir, killing 44 policemen. In response, February 26, 2019, the Indian Air Force attacked militant camps in Pakistan near the city of Balakot (near the Pakistani border with Kashmir). Last time such Indian Air Force’s attacks on the Pakistani territory were conducted almost fifty years ago, in 1971. At this, according to media reports, two Indian MiG-21 fighters and one Pakistani F-16 were shot down in the air fight.

The second and larger-scale air fight in the sky over Kashmir took place the next day, February 27, 2019. According to the NDTV India, the Air Force of India used eight aircraft, including four Su-30MKI, two Mirage 2000 and two MiG-21. Pakistan’s Air Force was represented by a combat group of eight F-16s, four Mirage IIIs, four JF-17s and several other types of fighter jets.

All this reminds us of the beginning of the Indian-Pakistani war of 1971, the largest in the history of the bilateral conflict. However, at that time, unlike now, they did not have missile and nuclear weapons. And now, in particular, India has ballistic missiles of the “Agni” type, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Their range is from 700 to 5,500 km. In turn, Pakistan has “Babur” missiles with a range of up to 700 km and “Hatf V” ballistic missiles with a range of 1.3 thousand km.

Chronology of the Indian-Pakistani Conflict

According to official statements by the leadership of India and Pakistan, they will never use nuclear weapons in a border conflict. At the same time, such a possibility cannot be ruled out. For example, with the onset of combat clashes in Kashmir on February 26, 2019, the missile-nuclear forces of both countries have been brought to a higher level of combat readiness, which already provides for the possibility of their combat use.

In addition, with increasing combat readiness of missile-nuclear forces, a number of measures are being carried out, including new frequencies for communication systems, giving of battle orders, deploying mobile launchers to patrol routes and patrol areas. Each of these steps taken by one side, is monitored by the intelligence of the enemy, who tries to take the same or even larger-scale steps in response.

As a result, an “escalation ladder” of such actions is formed, which can lead to unpredictable consequences. Especially in case of wrong intelligence data, or an inadequate reaction of command and policy makers. Similar situations had repeatedly occurred during the “Cold War” between the United States and the USSR when their anti-missile defense systems provided false signals about the launch of enemy missiles. And only due to the restraint and professionalism of the duty officers and commanders of missile defense systems and strategic missile forces of the USA and the Soviet Union they managed to avoid war.

Missile and Nuclear Potentials of Pakistan and India

A similar situation may arise during the intensification of the confrontation between India and Pakistan and without any guarantees of its control by parties. At this, the exchange of missile and nuclear strikes would not only lead to an Indian-Pakistani conflict on a qualitatively new level, but would have significant negative consequences for the whole world, Ukraine included.

Thus, for the first time since the Second World War, there would be a precedent for the real use of nuclear weapons, as the example for other countries. Or, at least, such an opportunity would be created. In turn, this would definitely accelerate the missile-nuclear weapons race in the world. Moreover, those countries that do not have such weapons can join it. All this would completely eliminate the system of control over missile and nuclear weapons and counteracting its proliferation. This would also undermine the tools for containment of missile and nuclear proliferation such as the United Nations’ sanctions imposed today on North Korea.

Nuclear-Armed Countries

And so the global situation in the world would become more complex and dangerous for all countries without exception, regardless of whether they have missile and nuclear weapons or not. However, even without the Indian-Pakistani conflict, all of these trends are already taking place and lead to an increase in the risk of nuclear wars.

…For Ukraine, its main guarantor will continue to be the ability to protect itself by its own forces, including by the adoption of new missile systems…

In general, such issues are relevant to Ukraine, which is on the intersection of the interests of the United States and Russia — two antagonistic centers with missile and nuclear weapons. In view of this, the aggravation of disagreements between them, including in the sphere of control over missile and nuclear weapons, directly affects the security of our state. In particular, we should not rule out the possibility of Ukraine’s being turned into Washington and Moscow’s “coin to exchange” in resolving their disagreements, which is important above all for their own security. It is these approaches that Russia tries to impose on the United States.

For Ukraine, under such circumstances, of fundamentally new importance is becoming the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance in connection with our country’s accession to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Despite the fact that Russia bluntly ignores the Memorandum, it continues to play the basis role of the international legal framework for ensuring Ukraine’s security. In particular, it provides an opportunity to intensify dialogue with the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom regarding the provision of real security guarantees. At the same time, for Ukraine, its main guarantor will continue to be the ability to protect itself by its own forces, including by the adoption of new missile systems. Even as conventional weapons, they will be a powerful factor in deterring aggressors.



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