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The most irresponsible and provocative statement of Dr. Qadeer Khan about nuking Delhi has drawn attention to the real possibility of the whole sub-continent along with South Asia going up in a flash! There have been a number of predictions about a possible nuclear holocaust in the sub-continent because of the race going on between the two neighbouring countries to acquire more and more nuclear and thermo-nuclear warheads. Pakistan is supposed to have 110 to 130 warheads while as India is stated to have 90 to 110! The most worrying aspect is the attempt by Pakistan to acquire tactical warheads capable of stalling the India’s cold start thrusts. They are also concentrating on getting submarines with nuclear missiles for acquiring a second strike capability.

About a couple of months back, Atul Singh wrote a detailed article in Fair Observer, titled, “Yes, Nuclear Terrorism is a Real Threat”! According to him, “Paul Ashley, a retired professional from the British Armed Forces, has mused that 2016 could be the year of nuclear terrorism. Many worry about a “dirty bomb” that might combine conventional explosives with radioactive material. Two of the bombers involved in the Brussels attacks appear to have monitored a senior researcher who worked at a Belgian nuclear center”. “A 2014 report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) estimated that “nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials remain spread across hundreds of sites around the globe.” The NTI report points out that some of these sites are poorly secured and that terrorists might have acquired the ability to build a bomb”.

Nuclear Terrorism may be the immediate concern of the western powers but our main apprehension is a sub-continental Armageddon! This has been highlighted by Dilip Hiro in his article “The most dangerous place on Earth” in Caravan Daily. The first para of the article sums up the situation, “Undoubtedly, for nearly two decades, the most dangerous place on Earth has been the Indian-Pakistani border in Kashmir. It’s possible that a small spark from artillery and rocket exchanges across that border might — given the known military doctrines of the two nuclear-armed neighbors — lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration. In that case the result would be catastrophic. Besides causing the deaths of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, such a war might bring on “nuclear winter” on a planetary scale, leading to levels of suffering and death that would be beyond our comprehension”.

According to Dilip Kashmir is the root cause of enduring enmity between India and Pakistan. Three wars have been fought by the rivals on this, “toxic bone of contention”. He quotes President Bill Clinton who called the India Pakistan border in Kashmir as the most dangerous place on Earth! The most worrisome aspect is the Indian Cold Start doctrine involving massive tank thrusts and Pakistan’s response with the tactical nuclear weapons at the disposal of the field commanders. A limited encounter can rapidly escalate and result in a total nuclear exchange. It is a more worrisome scenario than Richter Scale 8 earthquake!

Within the sub-continent, it has been repeatedly asserted by all concerned that the core issue is Kashmir. India has been off and on deviating from its initial commitment of solving the problem in reference to the wishes of the people. In the beginning, Indian leaders including Pandit Nehru had declared that the final status of the State would be determined by reference to the people. Slowly, they reneged from this commitment and came to declare that Kashmir is an inseparable and integral part of India and the only dispute is the recovering of the part under Pakistani control. They not only made a total about turn in their stand but started measures for physical and cultural integration of the State into the mainland India.

Earlier, these measures were taken in a clandestine way but after the installation of the BJP government at the centre, these measures have not only been accelerated but are being taken in a brazen way. The recent events involving certain steps being taken by the Central Government with the active participation of the State Government have been alleged to be a part of a diabolical plan to change the demography of the only Muslim majority state in India. The Sainik Colonies, the Composite Townships for Pandits, the permanent settlement of Pakistani refugees and so on are being viewed with suspicion in spite of clarifications by the State Government. Incidentally, State Government’s explanations are negatived by BJP leaders time and again.

The result has been extreme alienation of the people in general and the youth, being harassed from all sides, in particular. The recent militant attacks show that the youth getting squeezed in from all sides are reacting violently. According to some top security and defence officials, the most worrying aspect is the open support of common people to these new militants, mostly locals and even some deserters from the Kashmir Police. The new Hindutva slanted measures have started uniting the various groups in the “Azadi” camp which had been earlier drifting apart. This attempted Hinduisation of Muslim Kashmir is a fuse not only locally but an invitation for outsiders to join in the “Jihad”! BJP’s failure to bring in Ache Din and the looming elections in some States need a new round of opium for the poor voters. As always, rising Indo-Pak tension posing a threat to “National Security” has been the best bet. However, the authors of this strategy need to think over the ultimate consequences of this dangerous game which, as predicted by many, may end in a South Asian Armageddon!

Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir

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