The New York Times, USA
June 14, 2002
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Nuclear war isn't about to erupt here. I can say that baldly because
if it does, then I'll be vaporized and won't have to eat my words.
But while Don Rumsfeld's relentless squinting
at leaders here and in New Delhi may help stave off war for now, it
still threatens just down the road. And that threat makes Pakistan
an eerie place, with the flavor of the languid European summer of 1914.
Warhead-rattling resonates in every dusty alley I've prowled in northern
Pakistan, along with shrugs
at the risks. As a doctor told me cheerfully (she hid behind a black
veil with only a slit to reveal her eyes and a bit of nasal cleavage):
"I'm not worried about war, because life and death are decided
Everybody here is behaving irresponsibly. Both India
and Pakistan are cavalierly
playing with nuclear fire and brutalizing the Kashmiris they claim to be championing, while the Bush administration
intervenes tardily to defuse crises rather than taking the initiative
to prevent them from occurring in the first place. If a new August 1914
is to be definitively averted, President Bush must show continuing interest
in the region when it is hot and also when it is not. But judging from
his lack of engagement in countries not in the headlines, I wouldn't
bet that he will.
The next crisis will come with any new big terror attacks in Kashmir.
Even if infiltration from Pakistan
is halted, there are 2,500 militants already in Indian Kashmir. When
they strike, the pressure within India
to whack Pakistan will be enormous.
"The Indian Air Force and the Army are raring to have a go, and
only political authority is holding them back," said Sumit Ganguly, author of the aptly
titled "Unending Conflict," an excellent new book on India-Pakistan
relations and the three wars between them since independence.
Hamid Gul, a rabble-rousing
former lieutenant general and head of Pakistan's
intelligence agency, says that the moment India
strikes, Pakistan will call
for a jihad against India and
invite Muslims from all over the world to sneak into India
and wage attacks. He added that Pakistan
would also support separatist movements around India
and might even bomb India's
"If India attacks,"
said General Gul, "then it's `Come one,
come all, it's Jihad!' "
Much of the visible Pakistani society (i.e. males) can be divided between
the religious beards and the more secular cheeks, but many beards and
cheeks alike seem quite prepared to think what is supposed to be unthinkable.
Hamid Nasir Chattha, a prominent politician, noted in a newspaper essay
yesterday that Pakistan had
spent a fortune acquiring a nuclear capability and suggested that as
a result it would be almost a shame not to use it: "If the use
of nuclear is unavoidable for the survival of Pakistan,
then it must be used with no hesitation."
A survey of Pakistani elites published in a recent book, "Pakistan
and the Bomb," found that 98 percent believed that Pakistan
would be justified in using nuclear weapons "if India
were about to attack Pakistan
across the international border."
The U.S. Naval War College held an India-Pakistan war game not long
ago in which each country's leaders were played by officials from that
country. The games began with a terrorist attack, grew into a border
war - and then Pakistan covered
its retreat by firing four nuclear weapons at pursuing Indian troops.
India responded with 12 nuclear
warheads. The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency estimated that the
result would have been 15 million casualties.
So what can be done?
Many experts agree on what eventual peace in Kashmir will look like:
The Line of Control will be turned into an international border between
India and Pakistan,
and India will grant real autonomy
to its Kashmiris. So the Bush administration
needs to rouse itself from its diplomatic duff. President Bush has done
nothing substantial so far to reduce the risks emanating from any of
the four most dangerous places in the world: the Middle East, India/Pakistan,
and (in the longer run) China/Taiwan. Mr. Bush's aides have quelled
crises as they arise, but they have not sought aggressively to make
peace in any of these places.
It's time for the White House to take the initiative and prevent crises
instead of just managing them. Appointing a special envoy for peace
in Kashmir would be a good place to start.