Nuclear powers India and Pakistan on red alert

Bad blood: The regional rivals have gone to war twice over Kashmir since 1947.

The world holds its breath as Pakistan shoots down an Indian jet and the two historic enemies trade threats. A top scientist has warned that war between them could cause two billion deaths.

07:36 Pakistan claims it has shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured an Indian pilot. 07:43 Pakistan shuts down its airspace. 08:05 India claims to have shot down a Pakistani fighter jet. 08:19 Stock markets in India and Pakistan nosedive. 09:09 Pakistan releases video of a captured Indian pilot with blood on his face.

Two nuclear powers, the second and the sixth biggest nations by population on our planet, seemingly hurtling towards war.

Yesterday, with nightfall, came respite. Today, the world holds its breath.

Divided by religion (Pakistan 97% Muslim, India 80% Hindu), torn apart by history, with their armies facing each other across a 460-mile disputed border known as the “line of control”, the main quarrel between Pakistan and India is the disputed region of Kashmir.

Former US president Bill Clinton called Kashmir “the most dangerous place in the world”. Part of the reason is that Pakistan has a history of close support from China and India has defence agreements with America with a clear risk of both superpowers being drawn into a wider war.

The US scientist Brian Toon predicts that even a small-scale nuclear war between India and Pakistan would cover the entire Earth with smoke, destroying up to 40% of global yields of corn, wheat and rice and killing about two billion people through starvation.

Back from the brink

With stakes so high, will sense prevail? Millions have taken to Twitter to #saynotowar. The prime minister of Pakistan tried to calm things down calling yesterday for “sense and wisdom”.

But doesn’t history offer chilling warnings? The Football War, the Kettle War, the War of Jenkins’ Ear, the Anglo-Abyssinian War — all deadly conflicts fought for reasons far more trivial than what is happening today between Pakistan and India.

You Decide

  1. Do you think humans will ever see sense and give up fighting wars?

Activities

  1. Draw your own map of India, Pakistan and Nepal. Colour in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Some People Say...

“Well, India is a country of nonsense”

Mahatma Gandhi

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Kashmir has been hotly contested for a long time. Under the partition plan, Kashmir was free to accede to India or Pakistan. The local ruler, Hari Singh, chose India and a two-year war erupted in 1947. A new war followed in 1965. Then, in 1999 India fought a short conflict with Pakistani-backed forces.
What do we not know?
What really happened yesterday. Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian military jets and captured a pilot. But India disputes this.

Word Watch

Nuclear powers
Nine nations possess approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons in total.
Kashmir
A contested territory sitting in-between Pakistan and India. Both own part of the territory.
The Football War
A brief war fought between El Salvador and Honduras coincided with rioting during a 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
The Kettle War
A military confrontation between the troops of the Holy Roman Empire and the Republic of the Seven Netherlands on October 8, 1784.
War of Jenkins’ Ear
A war between Britain and Spain lasting from 1739 to 1748.
Anglo-Abyssinian War
An expensive rescue mission carried out in 1868 by the armed forces of the British Empire against Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia who had imprisoned several missionaries and two representatives of the British government.