Nuclear shadow looms over crisis in Kashmir

Tinderbox: The Kashmir conflict goes back to 1947, and has already resulted in three wars.

Could India’s latest move escalate into nuclear war? The vast Himalayan area of Kashmir is at the heart of a bitter struggle with Pakistan, making it the most militarised zone in the world.

The internet and mobile phone connections are down. Public gatherings of more than four people are banned. Tourists are ordered to leave. Families are staying indoors, stockpiling food.

Tens of thousands of extra soldiers and police appear on the streets.

What started it?

On Monday, India ended a legal agreement, Article 370, that had given Kashmir autonomy — its own constitution, a separate flag and the freedom to make laws — unseen in other parts of India.

Pakistan is angry about the move, calling it illegal and vows to fight it.

Why is Kashmir so important?

The answer is the glaciers and the fresh water it provides to neighbouring China, Pakistan and India.

Kashmir’s glacial waters provide water and electricity to a billion people in India.

Pakistan also relies heavily on the water for its farms.

With a growing population and more need for electricity, India has looked to the region to develop more hydro facilities.

Pakistan fears that India may divert water necessary for irrigation, and use water as a weapon.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, said yesterday he was worried that Kashmiris, angry over their new loss of independence, could attack the thousands of Indian soldiers and police sent into Kashmir.

If the India blamed Pakistan for such an attack, an armed conflict between the two nuclear powers would result, warned Khan.

Going nuclear?

Many experts say it won’t happen because there is too much to lose. The combined nuclear arsenals of Pakistan and India could unleash staggering destruction if used on civilians.

Don’t be so sure, others point out. It was only in March, this year, that India launched air strikes on targets in Pakistan-controlled territory. It was not long before both sides were exchanging artillery fire and the conflict quickly escalated.

You Decide

  1. Is water the most important natural resource on the planet?

Activities

  1. Draw a map of India, Pakistan and China. Colour in Kashmir.

Some People Say...

“It’s the most dangerous place in the world.”

Bill Clinton, 42nd US president, speaking about Kashmir

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
India’s government cancelled all of Article 370, apart from one clause which says that Kashmir remains part of India. The order has now been made law by President Ram Nath Kovind. The special status of Kashmir is currently being debated in India’s parliament.
What do we not know?
With a communications blackout, very little is known about what is happening inside the region. Many Kashmiris outside of the region are unable to contact their families in Kashmir.

Word Watch

Autonomy
When a group wants to govern itself, or a person wants to make independent decisions, they are looking for autonomy.
Constitution
The principles and laws of a country or group of people, that lists the powers, responsibilities and rights of its people.
Glaciers
Large areas of fallen snow, that over many years form into dense ice.
Hydro facilities
Power stations converting water into electricity.
Divert
To change the direction of something, or to distract.
Irrigation
Method of controlled watering of plants, particularly important in dry areas and seasons.
Two nuclear powers
India and Pakistan rank among two of the world’s biggest nuclear powers.
Nuclear arsenals
According to the Arms Control Association, India has 140 nuclear warheads; Pakistan has 160.
Civilians
People who aren’t in the army or police.

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