Tags: kashmir | india | pakistan | air strike

A Kashmir Air Strike in the 'World's Most Dangerous Neighborhood'

A Kashmir Air Strike in the 'World's Most Dangerous Neighborhood'
Pakistani protesters burn an Indian national flag during a protest in Peshawar on February 26, 2019, following the Indian Air Force (IAF) strike launched on a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) camp at Balakot. (Abdul Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

By Tuesday, 26 February 2019 12:55 PM Current | Bio | Archive

This week’s airstrike by 12 Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000's on a purported Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist camp in Balakot, Pakistani Kashmir, is a potentially significant escalation in a very dangerous neighborhood.

Although this “Intel based Counter-Terrorist Strike,” according to the Indian foreign ministry, is not a military action, the government of Pakistan strongly disagrees; an irate Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan alluded to future retaliation by his country.

This incursion is disquieting given the history of conflict between Pakistan and India — wars were fought in 1947, 1965, and 1971, with numerous additional “incidents” — and the fact that each nation now fields over 140 nuclear weapons.

Kashmir, a crucible of conflict from the 1947 Partition of Colonial India, and a majority Muslim region, is two-thirds controlled by India. Pakistan for decades has waged a proxy war against the “Indian occupied” regions from the rump Kashmir remaining in Pakistan. The infamous 2008 Mumbai India attacks left 174 dead and 300 wounded — and was masterminded by terrorists training in Pakistan.

India has always claimed the infamous Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) is behind terrorist attacks over the years.

The Balakot strike, ordered by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was in retaliation for the 14 Feb terrorist attack in Indian Kashmir (Pulwama) that killed 40 paramilitary troops. The attack was claimed by Jaish-el-Muhammed, a group dedicated to Pakistani “liberation” of Kashmir that operates training camps across the border. India claims success in an air attack that they say killed as many as 300 terrorists. Pakistan counters that only 4 Indian bombs dropped after the IAF turned tail with the arrival of the Pakistani Air Force (PAF).

This strike was unusual in that it was the first time that India has employed airstrikes against terrorists — and the first time the IAF had crossed the “Line of Control” since 1971, the last war. Modi was likely influenced by a need to appear “firm on terrorism” given upcoming Indian spring elections. India did in fact advise the United States of the strike, and China’s reaction, long an ally and arms dealer to Pakistan, was surprisingly conciliatory. China urged both sides to “exercise restraint”. It must be remembered that China and India, growing rivals in the Indian Ocean, were at war in 1962 and continue to have unresolved border issues in the mountainous Himalayas. China’s muted reaction is perhaps not so surprising given the upcoming 16th Russia-India-China (RIC) Summit.

The Indian-Pakistani rivalry is troubling given not only the presence of many nuclear weapons, but also significant conventional military forces. Each side possesses hardware that, for example, far outstrips most European nations. Although material readiness and training are always an issue on the Subcontinent, India/Pakistan at present field 2185/1291 combat aircraft, 295/197 naval vessels and 4426/2182 battle tanks with 1.3 million/.63 million military personnel. (By comparison the British Royal Air Force has 192 aircraft and France has 406 tanks).

Each country spends a lot of money on defense: India spends 2.5 percent GDP and Pakistan a whopping 3.5 percent. India’s much larger economy translates this into $63 billion/year versus Pakistan’s $10 billion/year. Ironically, Pakistan’s growing conventional inferiority (as India’s economy continues to expand relative to Pakistan’s) potentially makes it more dependent on nuclear weapons, as some Pakistanis see nukes as the only way their nation might “win” an all-out conflict. Pakistan has a slight edge on such weapons (about 150 compared to 140).

While both sides have nuclear, not thermonuclear, weapons, the carnage potentially wrought would be horrific. The Rand Corporation once estimated that a nuclear exchange would kill 2 million immediately, followed by about 100 million more people, to say nothing of the hundreds of millions potentially dislocated. It is likely that cooler heads will prevail, however. The timing of this incident, on the cusp of the Vietnam summit between the United States and North Korea, as well as the future RIC summit, underlines the commitment by nations such as the U.S., and even China and Russia (despite recent saber-rattling), to ensure that the nuclear genie will not escape from the bottle in the World’s Most Dangerous Neighborhood.

Scott Uehlinger is a retired CIA Station Chief and Naval Officer. A Russian speaker, he spent 12 years of his career abroad in the former Soviet Union. In addition to teaching at NYU, he is a frequent Newsmax TV and Fox Business TV commentator, and has a weekly podcast, "the Station Chief," that can be found on iTunes or at www.thestationchief.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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This week’s airstrike by 12 Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000's on a purported Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist camp in Balakot, Pakistani Kashmir, is a potentially significant escalation in a very dangerous neighborhood.
kashmir, india, pakistan, air strike
Tuesday, 26 February 2019 12:55 PM
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