Mutually assured destruction is only a theory: between two nations who both have the power to destroy one other, neither would dare use that power lest they risk being destroyed themselves. Probably. There’s no knowing for sure, but the concept kept American and Russian fingers off of nuclear triggers throughout the Cold War. So it works. But nothing works every time, 100%. And should two nuclear-armed rivals go to war over something more valuable than gold or oil, the consequences could be atomic.
Exactly such a situation is brewing over the Kashmir region of South Asia. This area is claimed as sovereign territory by both India and Pakistan, which has caused more than a few serious and very violent problems. The two nations have been fighting over Kashmir since the partition of India in 1947 and have engaged in three wars in the decades since – the Indo-Pakistani Wars of 1947 and 1965 and the Kargil War of 1999. But this dispute is over more than territory, or ideology – this dispute has evolved to center around Earth’s most precious resource: water. And things seem to be escalating.
Earlier in September, Pakistani militants infiltrated an Indian military base in Kashmir where they opened fire with guns and grenades, starting a fire that scorched through the personnel tents and barracks’. Eighteen Indian soldiers died in the attack before the Pakistani militants were killed in the ensuing firefight. Then, on Wednesday (9/28/16), militants exchanged gunfire again, in a retaliatory strike by the Indian military. Pakistani casualties were taken after heavy mortar and gunfire, and the two national enemies edged, once again, closer to all-out war; a frightening prospect that could challenge the safety of the entire world.
Violence in Kashmir isn’t anything new … Tensions have been running high in the area for almost 70 years. Governmental and cultural factors have certainly played roles in the conflicts between India and Pakistan in Kashmir – but one facet is particularly divisive: a resource so valuable, so fundamentally important that it threatens another, more intense outbreak of bloodshed in South Asia. And this time the stakes are much higher.
India and Pakistan are both nuclear-armed nations. Pakistan is the only Muslim majority country in the world to have a nuclear armament. Neither nation signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferations Treaty, which aims to, “promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.” And after the most recent bloodshed last Wednesday, the Pakistani Minister of Defense was quoted saying:
“We will destroy India if it dares impose war on us. Pakistan’s army is fully prepared to answer any misadventures of India … If Such a situation arises we will use [our nuclear devices] and eliminate India.”
Strong words. Should Pakistan strike at India with even one nuclear weapon, it can be fully expected for India to strike back with equal or greater force.
This is severely complicated by the fact that the Kashmir region is an important source of many tributaries and rivers in the Indus River Valley. This water is a vital source of irrigation for large portions of both India and Pakistan – it sustains many communities throughout the region, and is heavily dammed on both sides of the border for farming and hydroelectric purposes. Due to the vast extent of this damming, water levels further downstream are plummeting, and many communities are experiencing severe droughts and water shortages. Particularly in Pakistan, which has caused the recent up-rise in militant and terrorist acts against the Indian government.
Water has become an intense element of tension in the Kashmir region, propelling violence like wind in the sails of a ship blowing towards nuclear winter. Water is the most vital resource that exists on Earth – life cannot sustain without it. There have been wars fought over religion, land, oil, gold, women, and great cities … but they will all pale in comparison to the war that humans will fight over water. Because when a people is deprived of the very liquid that keeps them alive, a savage, brutal, animalistic side of humanity will emerge. The violence will be more hateful and desperate than it’s ever been, and these adversaries are armed with the full potential to eliminate each other, and life on Earth altogether.
While America struggles to choose between one criminal presidential candidate or the other, while ISIS and murderous police officers dominate our news, nuclear tensions are rising in South Asia; tensions that make the Cold War look like a gentle practice run. This could be the 21st century’s greatest, most consequential conflict – and yet few know of it, fewer understand it, and fewer still are doing anything to curb what is beginning to look like an inevitable nuclear war.
Sources: http://www.ibtimes.com/why-are-pakistan-india-fighting-nuclear-war-threatened-after-kashmir-attack-uri-2423462, http://www.ibtimes.com/india-pakistan-conflict-update-kashmir-death-toll-climbs-soldiers-both-sides-killed-2424159, http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/716401/India-Pakistan-nuclear-war-threat-enemies-neighbours-weapons, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/india-hits-militant-launchpads-in-pakistan-in-escalation-between-nuclear-armed-rivals/2016/09/29/e0145168-d97e-4149-977a-24d08b16ea0b_story.html, https://www.quora.com/What-would-happen-if-Pakistan-attacked-India-with-nuclear-weapons, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmir_conflict#Water_dispute, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_on_the_Non-Proliferation_of_Nuclear_Weapons
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmir_conflict, http://www.businessinsider.com/nine-nations-have-nukes–heres-how-many-each-country-has-2014-6, http://www.circleofblue.org/2010/world/pakistan-and-india-in-dam-building-race-interpreting-the-indus-water-treaty/