A huge tiff is going on between India and Pakistan in the wake of this week’s comments on nuclear war by General Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf said earlier this week that he was ready to use nuclear weapons had India crossed the Pakistan border last summer. Although his spokesman tried to retract the statement, it seemed clear enough when he said he had avoided war without committing conventional forces (i.e. just by the nuclear threat). Indian government officials have been sputtering ever since that they were not deterred by any Pakistani nuclear capability, and would not hesitate to go to war against Pakistan if they felt it necessary. The Indian novelist Arundhati Roy has said recently that at first she had protested the Western discourse about South Asian nuclear arms being in the hands of immature third world governments. Then she saw the governments of India and Pakistan behave childishly on the issue and began to be worried herself.
I don’t think the tiff has anything to do with maturity in the sense of character. As if Kennedy, Nixon, Kruschev and Brezhnev were mature!. It is simply that the nuclear capability of both sides in South Asia is still minimal and their ability actually to deliver a warhead is not entirely assured. So we don’t yet have MAD–mutually assured destruction–only LAD, likely assured destruction. That uncertainty gives the generals wriggle room to consider conventional war. When the nuclear capability expands, there will be less opportunity, even if the drum beating continues.
The rest of us should just demand an independent Kashmir and settle the damn thing before we get strontium 90 blown into our childrens’ milk.
Recommended reading of the day: Amir Tahiri on French plans to centralize and liberalize the French Muslim community and why they are likely to fail. (The link is clickable).