A new crisis is brewing between two nuclear-armed neighbors

April 14, 2015
A supporter of Shiv Sena holds Pakistan's national flag and a portrait of Lakhvi during a protest in New Delhi

A supporter of Shiv Sena, a Hindu hardline group, holds Pakistan’s national flag and a portrait of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi during a protest against Lakhvi’s release, in New Delhi, April 11, 2015. Lakhvi’s group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is believed to have been behind an attach that killed 166 people in Mumbai in 2008. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

India and Pakistan each possess more than 100 nuclear warheads. Their political establishments really don’t like each other. Correspondingly, we should always pay heed to tensions between the two nations.

A new crisis is brewing.

Last week, India announced it will establish protected settlements to rehouse about 200,000 Hindus in the Kashmir Valley. Forced out of Indian Kashmir by Pakistan-supported Islamists in 1989-1990, the displaced citizens are a priority for Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government. Conversely, Islamist protests illustrate opposition to Hindu empowerment. India and Pakistan have been fighting over the province of Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947; they have fought three wars over it, in fact.

Then on Friday, Pakistan released Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, ringleader of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people across India’s financial capital. While Pakistan’s primary intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, has protected Lakhvi from prosecution, his release is striking. Because Pakistan knows that India knows that Lakhvi’s group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, benefits from the spy agency’s support, guidance and shelter. And it’s releasing him anyway.

Believing men like Lakvhi can undercut India’s regional influence, the ISI’s pro-extremist element is flexing its muscles by releasing him. The problem, however, is that it’s not just Lakhvi on the loose. With an array of terrorist groups under its thumb — elements of the Haqqani network and the Pakistani Taliban, for two — the ISI has a terror portfolio with which to wreak havoc. And as attested by the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, the spy agency has repeatedly proven its support for groups that risk war. Lakhvi’s release is both a physical threat and a possible signal of increasing Pakistani aggression. It illustrates the looming danger in near-term India-Pakistan relations.

Regardless, the present crisis is centrally connected to Kashmir.

As evidenced by statements from Pakistan’s powerful army chief, General Raheel Sharif, and recent exchanges of fire, and with India now building Hindu-sectarian influence in the region, the risk of conflict between the two nations is increasingly real. Still, with Pakistan openly paranoid about India’s greater power, the country’s leaders are likely to regard what’s happening in Kashmir as a reflection of a broader Indian plan to weaken Pakistan.

Pakistan’s hardline anti-India factions will push for a tough response. While General Sharif has shown courage in previously confronting the hard-liners, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s weakness means that he has few reliable allies; the potential for escalation is thus significant. This mix of fear and emotion is at the heart of Pakistani politics and explains why successive governments have been either unwilling or unable to counter terrorist fanatics.

In addition, with Modi in New Delhi, this Indian government is far less tolerant of Pakistani terrorism than its predecessor. A repeat Mumbai 2008 would ignite a far stronger response. The risk is that Pakistan may gamble otherwise.

There is a central reality of international relations at stake here: Extremism is a political toxin that, unconfronted by strong leadership, risks disaster. Whatever happens, we’re left with a tragic truth. Four months after hundreds of school children were brutally murdered, Pakistan is re-energizing its demented waltz with terror.

11 comments

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Another Bush foreign policy fail. Aid and abet Pakistan in their nuclear weapon capability. Pakistan then harbors Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/washin gton/18nuke.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Conservative ignorance at work.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Another Clinton fail at work: Clinton has Usama Bin Laden found, decided to let him go. Then his failed policy of having made home ownership a racial vote-buying strategy caused the housing collapse. Thanks Bill, we can’t take Hillary, she’s even more useless and sees imaginary snipers.

Posted by LetBalanceCome | Report as abusive

It’d probably be best for the world in the long run if these two wipe each other out. Less carbon output.

Posted by LetBalanceCome | Report as abusive

Bush let Pakistan have the bomb. Just caved altogether. Even gave them cash to advance their efforts. That is FAR worse than Iran. Iran was not harboring Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
Bush was an idiot. Bush voters were idiots. Any conservative take on foreign policy can be safely dismissed as nonsense.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

No country wants to use Atom Bomb.The only country who has used is only America.May be Israel may use for Iran.They are strong arrogant and are on the back of America.

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive

What about Samjota Bus bombings, RSS the Hindu religious extremist group was involved in killing of innocent people? Why indian authorities are silent. Why the culprits of Samjota express are yet to be brought in lime light?

Posted by Roleena | Report as abusive

You are a hypocrite Anti-Pakistan and Pro-Indian author. Shame on you! Using anti-Pakistan terms to please your godfather (India).

Posted by TheSindhiAbbasi | Report as abusive

A whistleblower holding a major position in India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, Satish Verma, has alleged his own government of orchestrating the attack on the Indian parliament, along with the 2008 Mumbai attack. Considering other confirmations, Wikileaks has revealed a secret US state department wire in which the US had slammed New Delhi’s case on insufficient evidence.

Posted by Android1 | Report as abusive

would you indians stop crying like babies all the time? and since when has Reuters become india’s mouthpiece?

Posted by neat1 | Report as abusive

The above writer complains: “You are a hypocrite Anti-Pakistan and Pro-Indian author.”

Well so is any normal person. Pakistan is a country which hosts Al Qaeda and Taliban jihadists. Pakistan is a country of satanic verses and perversions of the prophet mohammed’s word. It is doomed.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

People in a country saying

1947- Condition Here is Worst.
1965- Condition Here is Worst.
1971- Condition Here is Worst.
1999- Condition Here is Worst.
2015- Condition Here is Worst.

By Now you world have guessed the country’s name.

Posted by Victor49 | Report as abusive