Backstory: India, Pakistan, Kashmir and a few hundred nuclear weapons


The dispute over Kashmir has poisoned relations between India and Pakistan since the two became independent countries in 1947. Here’s an overview of how tensions have grown more dangerous over the past seven decades.

NOTE: There are also some interesting videos on the site proper, I have also included a Reuters item at the bottom of this post about the nuclear weapons held by both countries (Factbox: India and Pakistan – nuclear arsenals and strategies) JP

07 August 2019 | David Ehl | DW

Like so many conflicts around the world, the dispute over Kashmir began with independence from a colonial power. In 1947, the United Kingdom gave in to the struggle for freedom in its Indian colony and granted it independence. The retreating British left behind two states: the secular Indian Union and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Read more: Opinion: India’s government is playing with fire

The partition of India in 1947 presented a problem to the then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, located right along the two new states’ northern border.

Traditionally, the state was ruled by a Hindu maharaja (local ruler), but the majority of the population was Muslim. Hoping to be able to declare his territory independent, Maharaja Hari Singh initially did not join either India or Pakistan, both of which took an interest in this special social constellation in the Kashmir Valley.

To this day, India sees itself as a secular nation in which several religions coexist. This makes Jammu and Kashmir, the only province with a Muslim majority, an important part of India’s religious plurality.

At the time, Pakistan saw itself as the home of all Muslims in South Asia. Its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, envisioned Pakistan and India as separate Muslim and Hindu nations on the subcontinent. Until 1971, Bangladesh, which is located to the east of India, was part of Pakistan.


The Kashmir wars

While the maharaja hesitated to make Kashmir part of either country, in 1947, Pakistani guerrillas tried to bring the principality of Kashmir under their control. Hari Singh turned to New Delhi for help, and it didn’t take long for troops from India and Pakistan to face off.

The first war for Kashmir began in October 1947 and ended in January 1949 with the de facto division of the state along the so-called Line of Control (LoC), the unofficial border line still recognized today.

Back then, the UN sent an observer mission that is still on the ground today. Pakistan has controlled the northern special province of Gilgit-Baltistan and the sickle-shaped Azad Kashmir sub-region since 1949.

The Indian-held section became the federal state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1957, with special autonomous status allowing the state’s legislature to have a say in legislation covering all issues except defense, foreign affairs and communications.

Read more: India abolishes Kashmir’s autonomous status

The following decades were marked by an arms race on both sides. India began to develop a nuclear bomb and Pakistan also started a nuclear program with the aim of being able to stand up to its giant neighbor. Today, India and Pakistan have an estimated 140 and 150 nuclear warheads respectively. Unlike Pakistan, India has explicitly ruled out a nuclear first strike.

Pakistan also spends huge amounts on its nuclear program as the country tries to make sure it won’t lag behind its neighbor in military terms.

Read more: Pakistan vows to increase pressure on India over Kashmir

In 1965, Pakistan once again used military force to try to change the borders, but lost to the Indian military. The neighbors clashed for a third time in 1971, but this time Kashmir was not at the center of the confrontation. Instead, it was the independence struggle in Bangladesh that precipitated the war. India, which supported the Bangladeshi independence fighters, once again defeated Pakistan.

A year later, India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement that underlines the importance of the LoC and commits to bilateral negotiations to clarify claims to the Kashmir region once and for all.

In 1984, the nations clashed again; this time over the India-controlled Siachen Glacier. And in 1999, both sides fought for control of military posts on the Indian side of the LoC. In 2003, India and Pakistan signed a new ceasefire — but it has been fragile since 2016.

The third neighbor

China, which has a long border with Jammu and Kashmir, also plays a role in this conflict. In 1962, China occupied a part of India that borders Kashmir — and entered into an alliance with Pakistan. To this day, China and Pakistan trade via the newly constructed Karakoram Highway, which connects the countries via the western Kashmir region. As part of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, that corridor is being expanded.

Read more: Belt and Road Forum: Is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor failing?

This former gravel road is currently being developed into a multi-lane asphalt highway that can be used all year long. China is investing $57 billion (€51 billion) in Pakistani infrastructure and energy projects, more than in any other South Asian country. The economic alliance with its powerful neighbor has helped solidify Pakistan’s claims to the Himalayan foothills.

Rebels and attacks

The governments of neighboring states are no longer the only parties to the conflict in Kashmir, however. Using violence, militant groups have been trying to disrupt the status quo on both sides of the LoC since at least the 1980s. Their attacks have contributed to a deterioration of the security situation.

Read more: Why Kashmir attack could spark a military confrontation in South Asia

At least 45,000 people have been killed in terrorist attacks over the past 30 years. And the total number of deaths resulting from this conflict is at least 70,000, according to estimates by human rights organizations.

Original Link: Kashmir: The world’s most dangerous conflict

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The illuminated fenced border between India and Pakistan is pictured at village in Ranbir Singh Pura sector near Jammu March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Factbox: India and Pakistan – nuclear arsenals and strategies

01 March 2019 |Zeba Siddiqui| Reuters

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – This week’s conflict between India and Pakistan, which involved air strikes in each other’s territories for the first time by the two nuclear-armed nations, has sparked fears of a nuclear confrontation.

Below is a look at their nuclear capabilities:


India has much stronger conventional armed forces than Pakistan, but both countries have comparable nuclear arsenals.

Pakistan has 140-150 nuclear warheads compared to India’s 130-140 warheads, according to a 2018 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

They are comparable in the sense that both have the capability to strike each other’s territories and cause immense damage and massive loss of life.

India’s nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine “INS Arihant” became operational last year, giving the country a “nuclear triad” – the ability to launch nuclear strikes by land, air and sea.

Pakistan is working on sea-launched cruise missiles to complete its own triad.

Pakistan has longer-range nuclear weapons, such as the Shaheen 3 missile that can reach India’s Andaman Islands near Southeast Asia. India is developing long-range ballistic missiles able to strike targets across China.

“I think the most important thing to take away about the nuclear capabilities … is that they both hold each other vulnerable, which means a nuclear conflict in South Asia would be devastating,” said Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Federation of American Scientists.

“They can hit each other’s key urban centers,” he added.


India has a “no first use” policy, meaning it has pledged to not strike first. It aims to make retaliatory strikes so powerful that an opponent would be unable to strike back.

Pakistan has not stated a “no first use” policy and there is little known about its nuclear doctrine.

“Pakistan tends to use its nuclear capabilities to act as a deterrent for any kind of military intervention by India,” said Grace Liu, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

“If there had to be a first use between India and Pakistan it would seem that it would be by Pakistan,” she said.

However, if faced with the threat of a nuclear attack, India could strike first. “You can always come back later and say ‘we had been provoked to this point’,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a prominent nuclear physicist based in Islamabad.


India and Pakistan have taken different paths to develop their nuclear arsenals.

India is believed to have sought nuclear capabilities after its defeat in a brief 1962 border war with China.

For Pakistan, weapons experts say it was the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that led to the independence of Bangladesh and proved a turning point for Islamabad.

“Pakistan sees nuclear weapons as the only way to prevent a repeat of something like 1971 ever happening again, when its territory was effectively cut in half, with Bangladesh created out of what used to be East Pakistan,” said Panda.

Since then, the countries have engaged in an arms race that has outpaced traditional nuclear rivals. “I don’t think we see the level of tit-for-tat development between the U.S. and Russia that we do in the India and Pakistan programs,” said Liu.


India in recent years has developed solid fuel missiles in canisters that require warheads to be already fitted onto the missiles, increasing the turnaround time of the weapon. Previously, it said it kept warheads separate from missiles.

“That makes things a little bit easier to use if you’re India, but it also makes Pakistan worry more about India potentially breaking its ‘no first use’ pledge,” said Panda.

While Pakistan has been more vocal about its nuclear prowess, some analysts say, India – which is building nuclear plants for power generation – is more measured.

“India tries to be very, very careful and very, very secretive about the role of its nuclear weapons because making them public does not benefit the kind of status it seeks in the world community,” Panda said.


The risk of rogue elements gaining control of nuclear weapons is higher in Pakistan, home to several militant groups, including some that have attacked its military facilities.

As for the threat of actual nuclear war, some experts say Pakistan sees the weapons more as a deterrent to prevent a situation from escalating.

“The core objective is to get international attention,” said Sadia Tasleem, a professor of defense studies at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. “It’s about sending a signal that this option is being considered.”

“Nuclear weapons these days are maintained mainly to avoid asymmetry,” said Air Marshal V. Patney, an executive committee member at the New Delhi-based Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.

Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in NEW DELHI; Editing by Martin Howell and Darren Schuettler


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