If India and Pakistan have a ‘limited’ nuclear war, scientists say it could wreck Earth’s climate and trigger global famine

Deadly tensions between India and Pakistan are boiling over in Kashmir, a disputed territory at the northern border of each country.

A regional conflict is worrisome enough, but climate scientists warn that if either country launches just a portion of its nuclear weapons, the situation might escalate into a global environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

On February 14, a suicide bomber killed at least 40 Indian troops in a convoy traveling through Kashmir. A militant group based in Pakistan called Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. India responded by launching airstrikes against its neighbor — the first in roughly 50 years — and Pakistan has said it shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured one of the pilots.

Both countries possess about 140 to 150 nuclear weapons. Though nuclear conflict is unlikely, Pakistani leaders have said their military is preparing for “all eventualities.” The country has also assembled its group responsible for making decisions on nuclear strikes.

“This is the premier nuclear flashpoint in the world,” Ben Rhodes, a political commentator, said on Wednesday’s episode of the “Pod Save the World” podcast.

For that reason, climate scientists have modeled how an exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries — what is technically called a limited regional nuclear war — might affect the world.

Though the explosions would be local, the ramifications would be global, that research concluded. The ozone layer could be crippled and Earth’s climate may cool for years, triggering crop and fishery losses that would result in what the researchers called a “global nuclear famine.”

“The danger of nuclear winter has been under-understood — poorly understood — by both policymakers and the public,” Michael Mills, a researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Business Insider. “It has reached a point where we found that nuclear weapons are largely unusable because of the global impacts.”

When a nuclear weapon explodes, its effects extend beyond the structure-toppling blast wave, blinding fireball, and mushroom cloud. Nuclear detonations close to the ground, for example, can spread radioactive debris called fallout for hundreds of miles.

But the most frightening effect is intense heat that can ignite structures for miles around. Those fires, if they occur in industrial areas or densely populated cities, can lead to a frightening phenomenon called a firestorm.
“These firestorms release many times the energy stored in nuclear weapons themselves,” Mills said. “They basically create their own weather and pull things into them, burning all of it.”

Mills helped model the outcome of an India-Pakistan nuclear war in a 2014 study. In that scenario, each country exchanges 50 weapons, less than half of its arsenal. Each of those weapons is capable of triggering a Hiroshima-size explosion, or about 15 kilotons’ worth of TNT.

The model suggested those explosions would release about 5 million tons of smoke into the air, triggering a decades-long nuclear winter.

The effects of this nuclear conflict would eliminate 20% to 50% of the ozone layer over populated areas. Surface temperatures would become colder than they’ve been for at least 1,000 years.

The bombs in the researchers’ scenario are about as powerful as the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, enough to devastate a city. But that’s far weaker than many weapons that exist today. The latest device North Korea tested was estimated to be about 10 times as powerful as Little Boy. The US and Russia each possess weapons 1,000 times as powerful.

Still, the number of weapons used is more important than strength, according to the calculations in this study.

Most of the smoke in the scenario the researchers considered would come from firestorms that would tear through buildings, vehicles, fuel depots, vegetation, and more. This smoke would rise through the troposphere (the atmospheric zone closest to the ground), and particles would then be deposited in a higher layer called the stratosphere. From there, tiny black-carbon aerosols could spread around the globe.

“The lifetime of a smoke particle in the stratosphere is about five years. In the troposphere, the lifetime is one week,” Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who worked on the study, told Business Insider.

“So in the stratosphere, the lifetime of smoke particles is much longer, which gives it 50 times the impact.”

The fine soot would cause the stratosphere, normally below freezing, to be dozens of degrees warmer than usual for five years. It would take two decades for conditions to return to normal.

This would cause ozone loss “on a scale never observed,” the study said. That ozone damage would consequently allow harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation from the sun to reach the ground, hurting crops and humans, harming ocean plankton, and affecting vulnerable species all over the planet.

But it gets worse: Earth’s ecosystems would also be threatened by suddenly colder temperatures.

Change in surface temperature (K) for (a) June to August and (b) December to February. Values are five- year seasonal averages.Earth’s Future/Michael J. Mills et al.

The fine black soot in the stratosphere would prevent some sun from reaching the ground. The researchers calculated that average temperatures around the world would drop by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the five years following the nuclear blasts.

In populated areas of North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, changes could be more extreme (as illustrated in the graphic above). Winters there would be about 2.5 degrees colder and summers between 1 and 4 degrees colder, reducing critical growing seasons by 10 to 40 days. Expanded sea ice would also prolong the cooling process, since ice reflects sunlight away.

“It’d be cold and dark and dry on the ground, and that’d affect plants,” Robock said. “This is something everybody should be concerned about because of the potential global effects.”

The change in ocean temperatures could devastate sea life and fisheries that much of the world relies on for food. Such sudden blows to the food supply and the “ensuing panic” could cause “a global nuclear famine,” according to the study’s authors.

Temperatures wouldn’t return to normal for more than 25 years.

Robock is working on new models of nuclear-winter scenarios; his team was awarded a nearly $3 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to do so.

“You’d think the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies would fund this research, but they didn’t and had no interest,” he said.

Since his earlier modeling work, Robock said, the potential effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan have gotten worse. That’s because India and Pakistan now have more nuclear weapons, and their cities have grown.

“It’s about five times worse than what we’ve previously calculated,” he said.

Because of his intimate knowledge of the potential consequences, Robock advocates the reduction of nuclear arsenals around the world. He said he thinks Russia and the US — which has nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons — are in a unique position to lead the way.

“Why don’t the US and Russia each get down to 200? That’s a first step,” Robock said.

“If President Trump wants the Nobel Peace Prize, he should get rid of land-based missiles, which are on hair-trigger alert, because we don’t need them,” he added. “That’s how he’ll get a peace prize — not by saying we have more than anyone else.”

Kevin Loria contributed reporting to a previous version of this article. Alex Lockie also contributed to this post.

India bombs targets inside Pakistan. India foreign secretary says jets hit Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Pakistan, but Islamabad denies casualties in air raids.

Islamabad, Pakistan – Indian fighter jets on Tuesday crossed into Pakistani territory, conducting what the foreign ministry in New Delhi termed a “non-military pre-emptive action” against armed group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), dramatically escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours weeks after a suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region.

Pakistan reported the Indian airspace incursion, with military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor saying its air force jets were scrambling to respond, forcing the Indian aircraft to “release [their] payload in haste while escaping”.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, however, asserted that the jets had hit their target, and that “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated”.

“The government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “Hence this non-military pre-emptive action was specifically targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp.”

C Uday Bhaskar, the director of the Society for Policy Studies based in New Delhi, said: “India has sent a very firm signal.”

“The fact that air power has been used for the first time against a terrorist target to my mind signalled to Pakistan that India is demonstrating resolve in terms of using military power, particularly air power,” he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with his top government officials in New Delhi where he was briefed about the predawn air attack.

Hours later, speaking at an election rally in the western state of Rajasthan, Modi said “the country is in safe hands”, avoiding direct reference to the air raids.

“I pledge on this soil … I will not let the country bend.”

Al Jazeera’s Faiz Jamil, reporting from New Delhi, said that the Indian government has been under a lot of pressure to act in the wake of the Kashmir attack.

“This attack was expected and one of the reasons it was delayed was the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the region,” Jamil said.

“But everyone did expect that this would somehow happen sometime soon, especially with [general] elections coming up in April.”

‘Uncalled-for aggression’

A special meeting of the National Security Committee chaired by the Prime Minister Imran Khan was held at his office on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and finance, the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee and other civil and military officials.

“Forum strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties. Once again, Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

“Forum concluded that India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.”

Hassan Akbar, director at the Islamabad-based Jinnah Institute think-tank, termed the attacks “a very provocative and aggressive action by India”.

“They did drop payload in various sectors including in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and this constitutes a serious violation of Pakistan’s airspace and sovereignty.”

Akbar said Pakistan’s response could range from hitting Indian artillery positions along the Line of Control to taking “a more escalatory position” and launching similar airstrikes on Indian military targets.

Sounds of aircraft
Local residents and journalists in Pakistan told Al Jazeera that the sounds of aircraft and an explosion were heard in the Jaba area of Mansehra district, located about 60km from the LoC – the de facto border that divides Indian- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought three of their four wars over Kashmir, which both claim in full but administer separate portions of.

The air attacks on Tuesday appear to have taken place outside of Kashmir, at least 10km inside the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan’s military did not confirm the location of the incident, offering conflicting reports that at first placed it near the town of Balakot, about 12km from Jaba, and later claimed it occurred within the confines of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Tensions between the South Asian neighbours have been high since February 14, when a suicide attacker killed at least 42 Indian security personnel in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama.

Raids in Kashmir
Meanwhile, Indian security forces have conducted raids on the houses of four senior Kashmiri separatist leaders, including chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Yasin Malik.

Kashmiri civilians say they have been seeing heavy troop deployment, fuel shortages and frequent Indian security forces raids since the Pulwama attack.

“The cost of war might not be known in the TV studios, but we have already borne the brunt of the long conflict. Now, it seems the only option left for us is quick devastation or slow devastation,” said 65-year-old Bashir Ahmad Pal, a resident of Baramulla, a frontier town in northern Indian-administered Kashmir.

The joint group of separatist leaders have called for a two-day shutdown in Kashmir from February 27 to protest against the raids and “spree of arrests”.

India has threatened Pakistan with military action repeatedly since the February 14 blast, blaming it for “controlling” the attack. Pakistan-based armed group JeM had claimed the attack.

Pakistan denies any role in the attack, and last week Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan asked India for “actionable intelligence” in order to take action against any JeM operatives in Pakistan.

Pakistan has dubbed it an act of aggression.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, speaking after the National Security Committee meeting, told reporters that the Indian incursion into Pakistani airspace lasted three minutes, beginning at 2.55am local time. He said that the aircraft remained near the LoC, and did not enter airspace outside of Kashmir.

“They left from near the LoC, because of our alertness and the alertness of the Pakistan Air force,” he said.
“Escalation is not our aim, nor will it be. We have always spoken of de-esclation and defusion. And repulsing aggression is our right,” he said.

Earlier Qureshi said Pakistan reserved “the right to a reasonable response and the right to self-defence”.
Additional reporting by Rifat Fareed from Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir

Four people, including two children, have been killed and seven others wounded in an exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s district of Kotli, officials said.

“So far, four people have been killed in the shelling,” Nasrullah Khan, a senior hospital official told Al Jazeera by telephone on Tuesday night.

Khan said the dead included a woman and her two children in Nakyal along the Line of Control (LoC), the heavily-militarised de facto border between India and Pakistan.

“An Indian mortar shell hit a house in Nakyal sector along the Line of Control that killed a mother, daughter and son,” local disaster management authority official Shariq Tariq told AFP news agency.

Another death was reported from Koiratta town in the semi-autonomous region, Khan said.

Pakistan says ‘will respond’ to Indian air raids on its territory

Meanwhile, Indian media reports said at least five of India’s soldiers were also wounded in cross-border firing along the LoC.

The civilian deaths in Pakistan-administered Kashmir came as India earlier on Tuesday said it had launched air raids near Balakot, a town 50km from the LoC inside Pakistan’s territory.

The raids followed a suicide attack earlier this month in India-administered Kashmir, which killed 42 Indian troops when a rebel rammed his explosives-laden car into a paramilitary convoy.

It was the deepest cross-border attack launched by India since the last of its three wars with Pakistan in 1971, when the two nations fought over Bangladesh’s independence.

But there were competing claims about the damage the air strikes caused.

The Indian government, facing a general election in April and May, said the strikes hit a training camp belonging to the armed group, Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which claimed the February 14 suicide attack.

India bombs targets inside Pakistan
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said “a very large number” of JeM rebels were killed, without specifying any number.

“The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis, could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities,” Gokhale said.

Pakistan, which denies harbouring the JeM, also dismissed India’s claim, saying the Indian aircraft had dropped their bombs in a wooded area, causing no damage or casualties.

Islamabad called India’s air raids as “reckless and fictitious” and said it would respond in due course “at a time and place of its choosing”.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan both summoned emergency meetings of top ministers after the attack.

Khan also convened a meeting for Wednesday of the National Command Authority, which oversees command and control of the country’s nuclear arsenal, the military said.

Modi had threatened a “jaw-breaking” response to the February 14 attack.

India vs Pakistan: Military strength and arsenal

But at an election rally on Tuesday, the Hindu nationalist leader did not directly mention the air raids. He paid tribute to the military and said: “I assure the nation that the country is in safe hands.”

The escalation between India and Pakistan has triggered international alarm, with China and the European Union calling for both sides to show restraint.

Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since the end of British colonial rule over the subcontinent in 1947. Both sides claim the territory in full.

Sikhs provide sanctuary to Kashmiris caught in ‘revenge’ attacks. Kashmiris targeted by right-wing mobs in India following the Pulwama attack say the Sikh community came to their rescue.

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – When 18-year-old Kashmiri student Shadab Ahmad and his friends were attacked by a mob in the north Indian state of Haryana last week, they prepared for the worst.

The group of four – all Kashmiris – were set upon by a gang and only survived after reaching their flat and barricading themselves inside.

The mob outside moved on, but the group in the apartment decided it was wiser for them to leave for a safer place once the opportunity arose.

Shadab and his friends were among dozens of Kashmiris targeted by mobs across India in the aftermath of the February 14 suicide bombing that killed 42 paramilitary troopers in India-administered Kashmir.

It was the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in the disputed region and immediately triggered revenge attacks against Kashmiris in mainland India.

“There were around seven of us Kashmiris. Another Kashmiri friend called us and asked us to come to Mohali in Punjab. He said it was relatively safe there. We boarded a cab and got there,” Shadab, a second-year engineering student, told Al Jazeera, using an alias because of concerns he may be identified.

At Mohali, Shadab and his friends were greeted with a pleasant surprise.

They were welcomed by volunteers from the Sikh community, who fed them, gave them shelter in a Sikh temple (called “gurudwara”) and arranged transport for them to go back to their homes.

“The Sikh volunteers gave us food and accommodation and arranged 13 vehicles for more than 100 of us to go home together,” Shadab said.

‘Our religion teaches humanity’
Thousands of Kashmiris, many of them students studying in universities and colleges across India, have found themselves the the target of hateful rhetoric.

Like Shadab, hundreds of students fled their colleges in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other Indian states and have returned to their homes in Kashmir.

Videos of mob attacks were shared widely on social media, prompting condemnation by the Indian National Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, who asked India to ensure the safety of common Kashmiris.

The Indian government said it was putting into place safeguards to ensure the safety of Kashmiris living outside of their home state.

But alongside accounts of mob violence, which are often associated with Hindu right-wing groups, are stories of ordinary Indians coming to the aid of Kashmiris caught up in the violence.

At the forefront were Sikh groups, such as the UK-based non-profit organisation, Khalsa Aid, which helped fleeing Kashmiri students by putting them up in temples and providing them food and accommodation.

“Our religion teaches us humanity,” Manpreet Singh, the director of Khalsa Aid in India, told Al Jazeera.

“Due to some bad elements who harassed these students, they should not feel alienated and they should believe that humanity is still alive. These young people are our future,” he added.

Khalsa Aid says its volunteers ensured the safe return of at least 300 Kashmiri Muslim students to their homes after the mob attacks.

“We continue to get distressed calls from the students and after verifying we try to help them,” Singh said.

As a token of gratitude for their help, many Kashmiri Muslims in India-administered Kashmir have offered discounts, free medical and legal consultations, and other freebies to the local Sikh community, who are a minority in the region.

In our religion, there is a strong message of humanity irrespective of religion. We promote humanity
Jagmohan Singh Raina, Kashmiri Sikh leader

Kamran Nisar, a Kashmiri in his early 20s who runs the Winterfell cafe at a tourist spot in the main city of Srinagar, has announced free meals for the Sikh community for a week.

“This is not providing meals for free but instead a small token of love, and a gesture of gratitude to the community that came to help us,” Kamran told Al Jazeera.

Jagmohan Singh Raina, a Sikh leader in Kashmir, told Al Jazeera that his community had a long history of helping those in need, no matter their background.

“In our religion, there is a strong message of humanity irrespective of religion. We promote humanity,” he said, adding: “It’s not for the first time, Sikh volunteers have also helped in Syria, Bangladesh, in Nepal.”

Concerns for safety
At his home in south Kashmir, Shadab now debates whether he should go back to his college, and many like him are asking the same question.

They say they left the Kashmir valley to escape violence but no do not feel safe being Kashmiri in Indian cities.

Salman Shaida who worked at a university in northern India said he was forced to resign after a student screenshotted a WhatsApp conversation with him about the situation in Kashmir.

“There was nothing anti-national in it,” he told Al Jazeera. “But I was attacked by a mob and I hid until the police arrived outside my apartment.

“I approached the head of the institution but instead of providing me protection, he forced me to sign my resignation.

“This happened because I am a Kashmiri. I do not know why I was punished when I could have been lynched.”
The pressures come not only from incidences of prejudice against Kashmiris.

One Kashmiri, named Numan, told Al Jazeera his family were pressuring him to quit his job in the city of Bangalore over fears of violence.

“My family does not want me to work there any more. The situation has horrified everyone,” he said.

Kashmir Militants Kill Again as Trouble Grows Between India and Pakistan

NEW DELHI — Militants in Kashmir struck again on Monday, killing an Indian Army major and at least three other soldiers just days after orchestrating a devastating bombing that left dozens of Indian security forces dead.
Fears are now rising that Kashmir, a disputed region that lies between India and its regional rival, Pakistan, could be sliding into an especially deadly phase again.
Diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan are breaking down; Kashmiri students are being rounded up and attacked; other young people have been charged with sedition for criticizing the Indian Army; and Indians are lashing out at Pakistani civilians, including Bollywood actors.
The recent violence in Kashmir — a majority Muslim region that is mostly controlled by India, a predominantly Hindu nation — has uncapped a wave of jingoism that is sweeping across India. The orange, white and green national flag is going up everywhere, and many people say they want revenge.
Pakistan has a long history of supporting militant groups in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. India has accused Pakistan of orchestrating the recent violence and vowed to retaliate. But India has few good military options, analysts say — and the public seems to sense this.
“There is a real sense of frustration and anger because Pakistan is in the picture,’’ said Gurcharan Das, an Indian writer. “A lot of Indians feel that India has failed with regard to Pakistan and that it has not been tough enough and has appeased Pakistan.’’
“But,’’ he added, “I don’t think anybody really wants a war.’’
The trouble on Monday started around 2 a.m. Under the cover of darkness, Indian soldiers in the Pulwama District of the Kashmir Valley surrounded a house that was thought to be a militant hide-out.
The militants opened fire on the approaching contingent, killing a major and three soldiers and critically wounding at least one other soldier. At least one civilian was killed in the crossfire.
Indian officials said the militants inside the house were members of Jaish-e-Muhammad, or the Army of Muhammad, the separatist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing last week that killed at least 40 Indian soldiers — one of the deadliest attacks in the region in decades.
By midafternoon, Indian officials said two militants had been killed. But security forces were struggling to get closer to the house because hundreds of Kashmiri civilians were hurling rocks in an effort to shield the militants, who are widely seen in Kashmir as legitimate freedom fighters.
Pakistan has denied involvement in the recent bombing in Kashmir, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has promised “a befitting reply.”
Retaliation would carry huge risks, however. Both nations field nuclear arsenals, and regional dynamics are especially sensitive right now. United States officials have been calling on regional powers to support a peace plan for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, where Pakistan has long been a powerful influence.
But India is headed into major elections in the next few months, and Mr. Modi hardly wants to look weak.
Pakistan’s security services have a long history of supporting Kashmiri separatists and other militant groups, often using them as a proxy force against India. The United States considers the Army of Muhammad a terrorist organization; the group is officially banned in Pakistan, but Indian and American officials say it still operates there under different names.
The status of Kashmir has been disputed for decades, with India and Pakistan claiming large chunks of the mountainous region. Many of the militants in Kashmir are young men who have spent their entire lives in the Indian-controlled areas and have been shaped by years of heavy occupation by Indian troops. Security analysts say many militants still receive money and weapons from Pakistan.
On Thursday, a Kashmiri militant slammed a truck containing an unusually powerful bomb into a convoy of Indian troops moving across the Kashmir Valley. More than 40 paramilitary officers were killed, and Indian officials say they believe the bomb maker slipped in from Pakistan.
Since then, Indian security forces have been searching for accomplices, often going house to house.
Kashmiri civilians are also being targeted. At a university in Dehradun, someone used WhatsApp to threaten Kashmiri students, saying: “We will not leave you alive.’’
A board outside a mobile phone shop read: “Dogs are allowed, but Kashmiris are not allowed.”
Witnesses said that mobs swept through Dehradun, beating up Kashmiri students and forcing scores to flee.
“I am very scared,’’ said Junaid Ayub Rather, an engineering student who managed to hire a car to leave Dehradun.
He cited years of conflict and misery in Kashmir, where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed over the decades as India, Pakistan and various militant groups have fought for control.
“Tell me,’’ Mr. Rather said, “have you ever heard of Kashmiris attacking or threatening civilians from other parts of the country who reside in Kashmir to avenge that?”
Diplomatically, the two countries are pulling apart. On Friday, India recalled its ambassador to Pakistan. On Monday, Pakistan did the same.
Across India, more than a dozen people have been arrested, lost their jobs or were expelled from school for writing social media posts that were seen as critical of the Indian military or interpreted by the authorities as siding with the attackers.
Surabhi Singh, a senior coordinator for the Center for Advocacy and Research, a nonprofit that works with marginalized communities, wrote a post on Facebook shortly after the bombing, criticizing the Indian Army’s record.
She wrote: “If Attack on Armed Soldiers is Cowardly … Attacking Unarmed Civilians including Hapless Children must be an Act of Bravery.’’
Over the weekend, she was fired.
“I was targeted,” said Ms. Singh, who has also worked as a translator for international news organizations, including The New York Times. “You’re not allowed to think freely anymore. You have to toe the line of the majority. It is jingoistic.”
Even actors are being punished. A number of Indian film organizations announced a boycott of Pakistani actors working in India’s film industry, by far the biggest in South Asia.
Suresh Shyamlal Gupta, the president of the All Indian Cine Workers Association, said India needed to attack Pakistan “from all sides.”
Jeffrey Gettleman reported from New Delhi, and Sameer Yasir from Srinagar, Kashmir. Suhasini Raj, Hari Kumar and Kai Schultz contributed reporting from New Delhi.

Kashmir attack: is terror group JeM pushing India and Pakistan to the brink of war?

The Trump administration has been bent on a military withdrawal from Afghanistan and leaning on Pakistan to pressure the Taliban in peace talks. Pakistan is hosting a meeting next week in Islamabad between the Taliban and the United States before the next round of negotiations in Qatar at the end of the month.

It is likely Pakistan may use this opportunity to convey a subtle message, as it has done in the past, that it can get away with periodic attacks in Kashmir.

JeM has for years sought to end India’s sovereign hold on Jammu and Kashmir.

Just two months after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the JeM attacked India’s parliament in New Delhi. Experts suggest the US asked India not to retaliate militarily as it would have affected its deployment across several bases in Pakistan for operations in Afghanistan and lead to Islamabad mobilising the army for its own mission instead of helping the US seal the Afghan border.

Now, Pakistan is also likely to reiterate to the US the pet narrative that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is a “home-grown disaffection” and cite reports that the car packed with bombs that killed Indian troops was driven by a local youth, Adil Ahmad Dar.

Overall, the situation highlights the strategic limitations of the US and other nations in forcing Pakistan to abandon militant groups. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the attack and strongly rejected insinuations it is linked to the incident.

China’s stance on Kashmir attack will test ties with India
It is also possible that with India-Pakistan relations in deep freeze, and the US in talks with the Taliban for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, the JeM wants to push India and Pakistan to the brink of war. It needs to be noted that the JeM, which has close links with the Taliban, carried out attacks inside Pakistan after former President Pervez Musharraf agreed to help the US military in the aftermath of September 11. Its attacks included two failed assassination bids on Musharaf in 2003. It was only later that the JeM was rehabilitated by Pakistan’s Army so it could be used against India.
The car bombing on February 14 was quite similar to those carried out by the Irish Republican Army or militants in Afghanistan or Iraq and is possibly a hint of things to come. While car bombs have been rare in Kashmir, it is not the first time the JeM has used them. It deployed them twice in 2000 in Srinagar, albeit with limited success.
In October 2001, JeM militants rammed the main gate of the Legislative Assembly building, killing 23.

Thwarting such attacks would not only require excellent intelligence on men and materials, but also mean restricting traffic movement and exhaustive checks of vehicles – disrupting everyday life in Jammu and Kashmir during a crucial election period.

India has already indicated it would stop all civilian traffic during the movement of troop convoys. The ruling BJP, claiming to be more nationalistic and “muscular” than other political parties, is facing tremendous pressure to take a tough line on Pakistan. It could again launch “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control but Pakistan is likely to be prepared.

The other option is an attack using combat aircraft or armed drones on militant training camps. However, the problem is that Masood Azhar is based around Bahawalpur – and any aerial attack across the international border could lead to escalation. An attack across the de facto border known as The Line of Control may abate public sentiment – but will not punish the actual culprits.

India warns of ‘befitting reply’ to Pakistan over Kashmir attack
There are many hawks in India who are recommending full-scale military action against Pakistan. But there are a few things to consider when contemplating full-scale war with Pakistan.

First, India lacks the conventional forces overmatch over Pakistan that would allow it full control over the escalation ladder. If the element of surprise fails, Indian troops could get bogged down and there is the potential for escalation.

Secondly, Pakistan’s fear of being quickly overwhelmed may encourage it to rapidly raise the stakes with nuclear threats.

Thirdly, keeping an Indian attack limited may also not be a priority of Pakistan. It would, on the contrary, be keen to escalate the conflict to a level where the threat of nuclear war becomes imminent and the international community is forced to intervene. This could allow Pakistan to “internationalise” the Kashmir conflict – it administers part of Jammu & Kashmir (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) but insists most residents want either independence or to be under Islamabad and not New Delhi’s control.

Lastly, the Pakistani army does retain the potential to wreak some limited amount of damage on the Indian side of the border and the economic and stability cost to the border states would be debilitating.

If the ruling BJP limits itself to economic and diplomatic measures only, it may suffer in elections. With opposition parties piling on pressure to act, the government may have to undertake some kind of punitive action – the outcome and benefits of which cannot be predicted. Right now, by indicating “the armed forces have been given full liberty to decide the time, place and mode of retribution”, the government seems to have outsourced the problem of a credible response to the armed forces.

Kuldip Singh is a retired Brigadier from the Indian Army. He was formerly head of the defence wing in the National Security Council Secretariat of India.

A Family Ski Adventure in the Himalayas

Last winter, as I was riding in a car with my family through the Kashmir Valley, the driver’s phone rang. He listened carefully before frowning.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Man killed in avalanche.”


“A Russian, skier, went by helicopter.”

“Where?” I asked
“Where else?’’ The driver shrugged. “Gulmarg.”

Gulmarg. That’s exactly where I was taking my family for a ski trip. Gulmarg is Kashmir’s underdog ski resort, tucked in the snowy Himalayas, a place of magnificent skiing and no frills. Few foreigners visit, for reasons I will get into, and as we drew closer, I began to wonder if this was such a great idea. I looked out the window. It was now dark and snowing, and we were winding our way up a narrow road into the mountains. After we passed another military checkpoint, the driver nodded to me.

“You see that spot?’’ he said, pointing into the woods. “We saw a bear there last week.’’
My wife, Courtenay, who was sitting in the back, tapped me on the shoulder.

“Why can’t we go skiing in Austria like everybody else?”

I laughed.

“No,” she said. “I’m serious.”

I had always dreamed of skiing in Kashmir. That name alone conjures up adventure: white-toothed mountains and deep green valleys, wide open slopes and tough highland people. Draped in a mysterious beauty, Kashmir is one of those places most of us have heard of, but know little about. And I had a personal agenda. My children are among that strange breed of Americans who have never lived in the United States. They were born in Kenya, raised (so far) in Africa and India, products of the tropics who go to school all year round in shorts, and I wanted them to experience snow.

So one weekend about a year ago, while we were sitting around our apartment in New Delhi, I suggested a trip to Kashmir’s winter wonderland.

“Are you kidding?” Courtenay said. “Isn’t there an active conflict up there?”

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a conflict,” I said.

“What would you call it then?”

“A dispute, maybe?

I’m an average skier, trained on the snowy pimples of the Midwest, with a few lucky trips to Vail and the Alps. But I love skiing, and the thought of plunging down the Himalayas, the world’s tallest mountains, fired me up. I soon learned that Kashmir’s ski spot, Gulmarg, is huge (about seven times the size of Jackson Hole), with some runs so long they take all day to ski. I also learned that Gulmarg is cheap, never crowded and blessed with perfect high-altitude, inland snow. One experienced skier described it as being so soft and feathery that skiing through it was like floating through a forest. I wanted to float through that forest.

But before getting more excited, I needed to check out the safety of the area. This was a family trip, after all, and my wife was right: Kashmir is contested territory, torn between India and Pakistan. It’s a long story, flaring up in the 1940s, when the British divided the subcontinent into Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan. The people of Kashmir fell in between, religiously and geographically. They were ruled by a Hindu maharajah, though the population was mostly Muslim. And their area, with its fertile orchards, deliciously cool climate and legendary scenery, lies right between what is now India and Pakistan.

After the British left, India and Pakistan fought three wars over Kashmir, and today the conflict has settled into a thorny standoff, with India controlling most of Kashmir and Pakistan a smaller slice.

Many Kashmiris don’t want either country controlling them: They want independence, and a small, dogged separatist movement operates in Kashmir, attacking police posts and civilians believed to be collaborators. Gulmarg, however, is rarely affected; it lies in a nook of the Kashmir valley tightly controlled by the Indian military.

I was obsessed with getting us there, but had no idea how to pull this off. As luck would have it, right when Courtenay and I were haggling over the trip, we were invited to a dinner party in New Delhi where I was seated near a charming, fit-looking Indian with a bald head and handlebar mustache. His name was Akshay Kumar and he was a former champion skier. He had skied Gulmarg countless times, ever since he was a child, and he and his wife, Dilshad Master, run an adventure tour company,

When I asked him if Gulmarg was safe, he said: “Very. I’m taking some families up there in a couple of weekends. Want to come?”

I now had the necessary cover.

Akshay offered to do all the hard work: organizing ski rentals, lift passes, hotel bookings and, most important, the seamless string of large bearded men who would schlep us around. He made what could have been a complicated trip simple and safe. He also made it inexpensive. The kids’ lift tickets were less than $3 (that’s not a typo). A gondola day pass was $25. Equipment rental was about the same and the gear was solid: parabolic Atomic skis and Salomon boots. A ski trip to Austria, for example, would have cost us thousands of dollars.

I cover South Asia for The New York Times, and I was working on a story in Kashmir that same week on the life and times of a young militant named Sameer Tiger. Like many others, Sameer Tiger had been pulled into the insurgency by a mix of anger, naïveté and lack of economic opportunity. And, like many others, he went down in a hail of bullets, cornered by security forces. I had spent weeks researching him and was familiar with flying in and out of Srinagar, Kashmir’s biggest city. I also knew that the hot spots where the militants conducted their attacks tended to be in southern Kashmir, miles away from Gulmarg.

“Like ice, Daddy, like ice”

As I waited at the Srinagar airport for my family, I was giddy with excitement. It had just snowed and the trees were delicately coated, the roads wet and shiny. When I picked everyone up, Asa, our 7-year-old, pointed to a lumpy bag tied to the taxi’s roof and asked, just as I knew he would, “What’s that?”

I untied the bag and told him to put his hands in. “Ooh, that’s cold,” he said, turning over his first clump of snow. “Like ice, Daddy, like ice.”

I would have loved to linger in Srinagar, an old town built on a lotus-covered lake, where you can stay in a gorgeous houseboat, wake up with kingfishers plunging into the lake next to you, and then stroll through rose-filled gardens sculpted by Moghul emperors hundreds of years ago. But we only had the weekend to work with, so we had to skip all of this.

It’s about an hour-and-a-half drive from Srinagar to Gulmarg, and Courtenay was quiet the entire way. I did not blame her. Kashmir isn’t a war zone, but everywhere you look, you see Indian soldiers running checkpoints, patrolling the markets and peeking their helmeted heads out from the turrets of scarred-up gun trucks. The American government warns citizens to stay away, though I feel that’s overblown. I’ve been to Kashmir now more than half a dozen times and I’ve never heard a single gunshot. The Indian troops exert control in just about all parts of the valley, especially in Srinagar, and I know several other expat families who have visited, and all said they felt safe.

With evening approaching, we left the city on a smooth highway running west. The long shadows of minarets fell across the road. The men in the villages we passed were bundled up in heavy woolen cloaks called pherans. When we stopped to buy water, I noticed one man with a large round bulge under his pheran. When I asked him what it was, he lifted up his cloak to reveal a small pot of burning coal he was cradling to keep himself warm.
This is what I love about Kashmir. While India is such a feast of the senses — the food, the fashion, the colors, the deities, the clanging of brass bells and the constant whiffs of incense and fragrant oils — Kashmir radiates its own distinctive charm.

We crossed a river. This is when the driver’s phone rang, and after we heard about the deadly avalanche and then the bear in these same woods, the car fell silent.

The mood brightened when we pulled into the Khyber hotel, Gulmarg’s fanciest. It was a supersize ski chalet, and its green pointed roofs were dusted with snow. The kids’ eyes were peeled for bears. But as soon as we stepped into the lobby, with its dark, gleaming wood and fine carpets, I spotted what I really wanted to see: children. Packs of them.

Clearly this was a family destination, and in the Khyber’s downstairs rec room, Asa and our other son, Apollo, 9, instantly bonded with their Indian comrades over foosball and air hockey. I had to pry them out of there. There aren’t any bars in Kashmir (it’s dry) or anything resembling an après-ski scene, so we went to sleep early.

The next morning we mustered outside in the hotel’s portico, waiting for our skis to be delivered. I thought we’d just slap them on and slide the couple of hundred yards to the base of the slopes, but no, a Jeep dispatched as part of Akshay’s operation zoomed up with three men inside. Kashmiris are some of the warmest, most hospitable people, and before we climbed into the Jeep, the men greeted us with big hugs. When we climbed out, they insisted on putting on our skis. I had one guy on my left, another on my right and a third young man kneeling in the snow at my feet.

“Guys, guys, guys,” I said, trying to wiggle free. “I can put on my own skis.”

But the young man at my feet either didn’t understand or didn’t care. And for the first time since I was about 5, I watched someone untie my shoes and carefully pull them off.
The sky was a flawless blue, the air peppermint fresh. It wasn’t even that cold — maybe 30 degrees. Kashmir rarely gets bitterly cold; Gulmarg lies at the same latitude as Atlanta. All around us, the white teeth of the Himalayas gleamed, and from nearby chimneys I smelled wood smoke. It was the most romantic alpine scene I had ever entered, and part of it was the scale. Behind the mountains that stood in front of me were even higher mountains, and behind them, the real titans. On a clear day, from the top of Gulmarg, you can see into Pakistan and glimpse K2, the second tallest mountain in the world after Everest.
Gulmarg doesn’t feel like a ski resort; it feels like a village. At the base of the gondola, men with wooden boxes strapped to their shoulders sold chocolate bars, selfie sticks and cigarettes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pack of cigarettes on a ski slope.

Others wielded silver samovars and poured steaming cups of kahwah, a light Kashmiri tea, made from saffron and other spices, that carries a delightful aroma. Of the several hundred people on the mountain that day, most were not skiers but Indian families content to pay a few rupees for a ride on a sled. I watched the sled wallahs — a string of young Kashmiri men with battered toboggans — begin their long trudge uphill. They were working for the equivalent of a few dollars a day and didn’t have the money to take the lift. They slowly made their way up the mountain, heads down, bodies leaning forward, the wind tugging at their pherans.

Akshay arranged for my sons to take lessons with a Kashmiri skier named Ishfaq. He told them to call him Eeesh. We waved to Eeesh and the two roly-poly shadows beneath him as they tramped off to the bunny hill.

Courtenay and I hired our own guide, Wali. Wali was in his late 40s with curly gray hair and orange mirrored shades. He wore no hat. He had been working on these slopes since he was 8, beginning as a sled wallah. He had never been to school. When I asked Wali what he loved about skiing, he looked off into the hills and smiled.

“I love it for the money,” he said.

It wasn’t exactly the poetic answer I was looking for, but fair enough. In strife-torn Kashmir, where there aren’t many jobs for an athletic, adventurous man, this was a good one.

Gulmarg’s slopes cover everything from green to double black diamond, but few are marked. Part of the mountain is groomed, but advanced skiers love the ungroomed, backcountry skiing. The gondola reaches around 13,000 feet, one of the highest in the world. Some skiers hike up even higher or take helicopters to virgin spots. Gulmarg’s vertical drop, a measure of the altitude from where you start to where you finish, can be as much as 6,000 feet. With good snow, some runs stretch more than four miles. They can take the better part of a day and end in the woods, near some old temples.

We started with a medium-difficult run, taking the gondola to the middle of the mountain (Gulmarg has one gondola, one chair lift and several tow ropes). We stepped off into thick snowpack. This was mid-February, the best time for snow; sometimes the area gets eight feet of powder.

Wali led the way, dropping into a wide track that ran through Himalayan cedar trees. He stopped intermittently to look back at Courtenay and me.

“Up and down, up and down,” he shouted as we made our turns, trying to keep our skis together. “Yass, yass, that’s it. Good, good!”
As my skis cut through the snow, I felt the air against my cheeks and that addictive sense of speed. My thighs burned and occasionally I heard the sssh, sssh of a better skier descending past me, though there were only a handful of us on the slopes. It had been nearly 10 years since I had last skied, and bombing down the mountain felt as pure and intoxicating as galloping on a horse.

Courtenay agreed it was thrilling. But she was more distracted than I was by Kashmir’s misfortune of lying between two rival nations. Her take on Gulmarg was that it was “a stunning ski resort in the middle of a zone of sadness.”

We skied around some low-slung houses made of wooden planks. “What are those?” I shouted to Wali.

“Gujjar houses!” Wali shouted back.

Hmm, I thought. This place doesn’t just feel like a village — it is a village. Seminomadic Gujjar herders live here in the summer, when the slopes are carpeted with grass and wildflowers; the name Gulmarg means meadow of flowers. Just as I was thinking “How sweet is this?” — observing some culture while working on my parallel — I dug in too deep on a turn and face-planted. Courtenay and Wali didn’t hear me wipe out and kept going, leaving me in the snowbound Gujjar village by myself.

A bear of a man appeared out of nowhere. He ripped me up from the ground. After I got my hands through straps in my poles and could stand up without falling on my face again, I said, “Shukria” — thank you.

“Where from?” he asked.




His bristly face broke into a huge smile.

“Welcome, brother, welcome.”

Paradise on Earth

For lunch, we met up with our children at Hotel Highlands Park on the slopes. Again, this was not a Western imitation. We didn’t thump along in our ski boots in a packed cafeteria, pushing a tray along a track for a $10 cup of cocoa and a $25 hamburger. We sat down at a proper table in a proper restaurant and polished off a feast: naan bread, curried vegetables, fresh yogurt and an exquisite lamb dish of tender meat hammered flat and rolled into a baseball-size meatball. The hotel felt like a hunting lodge; deer heads and bearskin rugs hung on the walls.

I hadn’t seen any other foreigners, so when I heard an American accent down the hallway, I was curious. I wandered through the lodge, pushed open a door and found three rugged, sun-tanned guys sitting on cushions in a cozy, wood-paneled room heated by wood-burning stoves.

“What do you guys do here?”

“We’re the ski patrol,” said one.

His name was Luke. He was 39 years old. He grew up in Alaska, became an avalanche forecaster and a paramedic and came to Gulmarg seven years ago to run the ski patrol.
“It’s the warmth of the people,” he said. “That’s what drew me here.”

He explained that Gulmarg has 17 ski patrollers with snowmobiles to rescue injured skiers. Avalanches were always a risk but only in the off-piste areas, he said, like where the Russian tourist was skiing on the day we arrived.

After lunch, I watched my sons ski. Eeesh had taught them well. Asa turned back and forth, carving large S’s and ending with a confident snowplow. Apollo was less orthodox. He shot down the bunny hill like a bullet.

“Stop! Stop!” Courtenay yelled as he approached the bottom.

I doubt he heard but somehow, right before he was about to crash into us, he stopped.
The next morning was sadly our last. I persuaded Wali to take me higher on the mountain. When we got off the chair lift, we were by ourselves. The views were breathtaking. It was so bright, so clear, so crisp, so still. I just wanted to stay up there and stare at the jagged white mountains and etch those images into my brain.

I was reminded of a Persian couplet inscribed long ago on a pavilion in one of Srinagar’s majestic gardens: “If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
I gazed across the valley.

“You go first,” Wali hollered. “I want to watch your form.”

I didn’t know where to start. We were poised on the lip of an enormous bowl. In front of me, for as long as I could see, the snow was untrammeled. There wasn’t a single track.

The ascent of Sindhis in Chattisgarh

“No, no I’m told not to discuss any money issues here. Central offices will directly deal with it,” with these words, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate in Raipur North nearly whisked himself away to give an interview to a television channel. It took a while to explain it to Shrichand Sundrani, the candidate, that it was not money but a news story on Sindhis in the election that had brought this correspondent to his office.

In Chhattisgarh, politicians have stopped believing that news can be produced without cash transfers to journalists or media managers, especially during election. But once Mr. Sundrani was convinced that he did not have to pay for the story featuring him, he looked relaxed and even offered to be photographed with a picture of his personal saint, Gulab Baba of north Maharashtra.

Influence increasing
Mr. Sundrani did not deny that the political influence of Sindhis in Chhahttisgarh, “is increasing alongside Marwaris or Jains,” as other parties are also putting up Sindhi candidates. Members of the Sindhi community said that they did not mind who won in Raipur North as long as only Sindhi candidates are nominated by all parties. “We wanted to ensure that Raipur North turns into a dedicated Sindhi seat. It nearly happened this time but the Congress withdrew its Sindhi candidate,” said a community member close to the BJP.

The Congress had dominated the central Indian province through Brahmins and 36 royal families for half a century. With the rise of the Jana Sangh, the Marwaris and Jains of Raipur, who were less organised in politics, gathered under the saffron flag. The BJP and the Vaishya community’s rise in Chattisgarh was thus almost synchronised to the formation of Chattisgarh in 2000.

Late entrants
Sindhis are late entrants. “There was no way we could be early entrants in Chattisgarh’s politics,” said Kanhaiya Lal Chuggani, Chattisgarh chapter president of the Bhartiya Sindhu Sabha (BSS), a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the patriarch of the Sindhi community in Chattisgarh.

“We came as paupers and thus, it was a question of survival for a Sindhi. How can he give time to politics?” asks Mr. Chuggani.

“But Sindhis made money mainly through trading and their political aspirations increased. So, a few years ago, the Chattisgarh Chamber of Commerce had its first Sindhi president. Now, the Sindhis, who are 1% of the population, are joining politics,” said Mr. Chuggani.

The community was largely aligned with the BJP. “In 1940, RSS men, like the all-India president of BSS, Lakhsman Chandiramani (93), used to visit Sindh to campaign. The association [with RSS] continued and grew when L.K. Advani became the Deputy Prime Minister, and we naturally gravitated towards the BJP,” said Mr. Chuggani.
Sindhis now control many trades in Chattisgarh — from mobile phones, automobiles and clothes to kirana (grocery) stores, which were with other communities earlier. “We always work on a lower margin of profit compared with Agarwals or Jains. It is often said that wherever we go, we destroy the market,” laughed Mr. Chuggani, who feels that Sindhis can now financially influence both political parties and the public.

From within
Competition came from within the community in the 2018 election. There were nearly half a dozen contenders for the Raipur North constituency and Mr. Sundrani’s name was declared at the very end. Amar Parwani, a dynamic Sindhi businessman, and former head of Chattisgarh Chamber of Commerce, nearly bagged the BJP ticket.
“But Mr. Sundrani got it. The head of the Shadani Darbar, the most influential Sindhi pilgrimage, recommended Sundrani to the Chief Minister,” said a senior community member.

Moreover, “Parwani is a very new entrant in the BJP,” said a BJP official. But many in the Sindhi Samaj consider Mr. Sundrani, who won with a margin of a little over 3,000 votes in 2013, a weak candidate.

There are about 1 lakh Sindhis with 10%-15% votes in each of the four Raipur seats. But will they finally vote for a Sindhi? Mr. Sundrani thinks that “they definitely will.” But many Sindhis are in two minds. Whoever loses, Hindu Sindhis have won in Chattisgarh, 70 years after losing their homeland in southern Pakistan.

Pakistan won’t abandon peace efforts despite India’s reluctance: Shah Mehmood Qureshi

WASHINGTON: India’s reluctance to hold talks with Pakistan will not stop Islamabad from closing doors on its efforts to promote peace in the region, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said, days after New Delhi cancelled the foreign minister-level meeting in New York.

Addressing a news conference at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington on Sunday, Qureshi said India used incidents that happened in July to cancel peace talks that it agreed to in September.

India on Friday cited the “brutal” killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the release of the postal stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri terrorist Burhan Wani for calling off the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York this month.

“India is reluctant, we will not close our doors,” Qureshi said.

“Hiding away from issues will not make them disappear. It will not improve the situation in Kashmir,” he was quoted as saying by the ‘Dawn’ newspaper.

The foreign minister said he was unable to understand India’s refusal to participate in peace talks with Pakistan.

“Engagement, no-engagement. Coming, not coming. We desired talks as we believe the sensible way is to meet and talk. They agreed, and then disagreed,” he said.

Qureshi said India’s response to Pakistan’s peace offer was harsh and non-diplomatic.

“We did not use a non-diplomatic language in our rejoinder. Our response was matured and measured. They adopted a new approach, and moved back,” he said.

The foreign minister also alleged that Swaraj’s “language and tone was unbecoming of a foreign minister”, the report said.

Asked if tensions between India and Pakistan could lead to a war between the two countries, Qureshi said “Who is talking of war? Not us. We want peace, stability, employment and improving lives. You identify where is the reluctance”.

Qureshi said Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be mistaken for a sign of weakness.

“We want peace. It does not mean, we cannot defend ourselves against aggression. We can, but we do not have an aggressive mindset,” he said.

Qureshi also rejected India’s concerns over the release of a postal stamps “glorifying” slain Kashmiri terrorist, saying “hundreds of thousands of people are fighting in Kashmir, not all of them are terrorists”.

The foreign minister also reiterated Pakistan’s offer to open the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor for allowing Sikh pilgrims from India to visit the historic gurdwara on the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev.

India initially agreed to a meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi, but later said it would would be “meaningless” to hold talks after the “two deeply disturbing” developments.

Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived following a spate of terror attacks on Indian military bases by Pakistan-based terror groups since January 2016.

Following the strikes, India announced it will not engage in talks with Pakistan, saying terror and talks cannot go hand-in-hand.

SECURITY INTELLIGENCE BOOK REVIEW The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace

The book The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, co-authored by the former chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Asad Durrani, and A S Dulat, the former chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has created a buzz around South Asia.

Former counterparts from the rival countries’ intelligence services coming together to produce a book on sensitive issues related to back-door diplomacy and the events related to security and foreign-policy matters is a unique venture. The book is narrated in a conversational style, with journalist Aditya Sinha initiating the dialogue between Durrani and Dulat.

Quite interestingly, Durrani is the one who occupies most of the pages of the book, while Dulat remains a bit conservative in his approach and only repeats the same mantra of India being a target of ISI and Pakistani non-state actors.

The first chapter is all about setting the stage for the beginning of the conservation between Durrani and Dulat, and it gives readers a chance to become familiar with the backgrounds of the spymasters penning their experiences.

After engaging the reader, the book opens with Pakistan’s ISI-vs-RAW war. It is the third chapter that actually looks behind the channels of diplomacy and the activities of both spy agencies in Kashmir.

While Durrani states that India has a status-quo power edge over Kashmir and that the only solution to the problem is a composite dialogue, Dulat is of the view that there is no benefit for India in burning resources in Kashmir.

Durrani’s admission about Pakistan not understanding Amanullah Khan, the president of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, is interesting. JKLK wanted a free Kashmir independent of any influence from either Pakistan or India. Durrani is of the view that Pakistan should have backed Amanullah Khan instead of backing Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Having had the chance to meet Amanullah Khan personally on few occasions, I in my early youth was convinced that his formula was the only way forward for both India and Pakistan, so one wonders why it took three decades for Durrani and his colleagues to understand this very simple point.

The book gives a detailed Indo-Pakistani perspective on Afghanistan and the proxy wars between the two countries, but the controversial point that generated the backlash is about Osama bin Laden. Durrani maintains in the book that Pakistan came to be aware of bin Laden’s presence at some stage and used him as a bargaining chip.

His revelations about the Abbottabad operation are nothing new, as every knowledgeable person in Pakistan is aware that the operation was conducted mutually and that Pakistan agreed to show ignorance about it to avoid the wrath of hyper-nationalist organizations. Durrani also states that hyper-nationalism is the obstacle in the way of Pakistan’s peace and progress.

Dulat and Durrani both also agreed to pay money to separatists and non-state actors in Kashmir and Baluchistan, which are proxy battlefields for Pakistan and India.

There are different aspects and interesting points in the book for intellectual consumption, but at the same time, it focuses more on Pakistan than India. That raises the question of whether it is a deliberate effort by a third party to exploit the weak links in Pakistan’s narrative and get them endorsed by an ex-ISI chief. For example, the statement from Durrani that both India and Pakistan should reunite again seems like an endorsement of the Akhand Bharat ideology. Durrani is of the view that Pakistan and India should one day be reunited, and likely will be. For this to happen he proposes different steps to be taken, and a detailed outline of how this can be achieved can be found in the book.

While for the establishment it is high time to think about their narrative as the Bin Laden operation details given by Durrani raise some serious questions. If the Abbottabad operation was mutually agreed, then why was the nation’s money and time wasted by the Pakistani establishment by forming a commision on the Abbottabad incident, the report on which has still not been made public.

Durrani’s statement regarding the Kargil War is a confession that Nawaz Sharif saved the day for the establishment in that conflict. Durrani’s statement is highly disliked by the establishment in Pakistan as he states in the book that the prime minister was not briefed properly and that this misadventure was initiated by then army chief Pervez Musharraf.

Durrani’s revelations are not appreciated by the establishment in Pakistan; he is already the focus of a military inquiry into the leaking of national secrets and his name is on the exit control list so he cannot flee the country.

Durrani’s point in the book regarding the establishment disliking Sharif because of his soft stance regarding India and his participation in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony also reflects the fact that there are double standards as far as foreign policy is concerned. If a dictator in uniform such as Musharraf pleads to Atal Bihari Vajpayee to make a deal on Kashmir and shows a soft approach towards India, it is considered patriotism and a good diplomatic approach, while the same stance from an elected prime minister is termed as a security risk influenced by the Indian lobby.

Durrani’s statement regarding the military establishment camp disapproving of Sharif also validated the former prime minister’s point that he was ousted by the invisible forces for asserting his authority on foreign policies.

For policymakers, it seems like the right time to step back from the hegemonistic foreign-policy narratives, and they should leave some space for elected representatives to work as well.

The propaganda drive against Durrani concerning leaked national secrets is baseless, as he did not disclose any secrets; in fact, he has pointed out the Pakistan’s Army’s vulnerabilities, and he identified senior officers involved in corruption.

Durrani’s revelations are not appreciated by the establishment in Pakistan; he is already the focus of a military inquiry into the leaking of national secrets and his name is on the exit control list so he cannot flee the country.

One wonders why instead of suppressing facts, the Pakistani military establishment has started an inquiry into the questionable policies and narratives of the last 70 years. Instead of dragging Durrani into an inquiry, a commission should be formed to investigate who hijacked Muhammad Ali Jinnah‘s vision of a welfare state and turned it into a security state. Who was responsible for foreign-policy failures, the Kargil blunder, the fall of Dhaka, the incidents at Ojhri camp in Rawalpindi, Who created non-state actors, and who pushed the country first into a dollar-sponsored Afghan war and then into to the great game of occupying Afghan territory in the early 2000s?

Who controls the policies and narratives of the state, and why should they not be brought to justice?

The only way forward for Pakistan is to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and to accept the mistakes and blunders of the past 70 years. Probably Durrani has provided the military establishment in Pakistan with an opportunity to come forward and accept their failures in shaping rotten and unsuccessful narratives.
It is high time for the establishment step back and let state affairs and narratives be controlled and shaped by elected governments.

India, Pakistan Set for Counterterror Drills — Together, in Russia

Washington, May 3: In an unprecedented move, nuclear-capable South Asian rivals India and Pakistan are gearing up to take part in joint military drills.

Last week, Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman confirmed that India would participate in anti-terrorism military drills alongside Pakistan.

The two nations, partitioned in 1947, agreed to train under the auspices of the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Ural Mountains of Russia in August.

The SCO is an economic, security and political organization founded in Shanghai in 2001. China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are the member countries.

The founder of India’s Defense Intelligence Agency, Kamal Dawar, said that Pakistan’s participation in the drills should not be “merely symbolic.” He said that India and Pakistan had worked together as peacekeepers at the United Nations and that it would be a good thing to re-establish communications.

Pak Rangers

FILE – Pakistan Rangers stand before taking their positions during a counterterrorism training demonstration on the outskirts of Karachi, Feb. 24, 2015.

​Sincerity questioned
However, Dawar, author of Tryst with Perfidy: The Deep State of Pakistan, is skeptical about whether Pakistan’s army, intelligence agencies and “multiple terror organizations” would be sincere in working with India to defeat terrorism.

Retired Colonel Farooq Ahmed, former deputy director of the Pakistan military’s media wing, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), told VOA that Pakistan was “very excited” to participate in the drills, but that “India needs to stop pointing fingers at Pakistan and resist interfering in its internal affairs.”

India and Pakistan, which have been feuding over Kashmir since the two nations were partitioned, will most likely keep fighting over the disputed territory, even if they line up on the same platform. The Kashmir region has been a flashpoint between the two countries and they have fought two wars over it.

Dawar had a visceral response at the bare mention of Kashmir. “Pakistan should forget about Kashmir. Kashmir is an integral part of India,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s “interference” in Kashmir was unwarranted and the reason why its “deep state” would never allow it to work with India.

But Brussels-based security analyst Khalid Farooqi said Pakistan’s “moral position” on Kashmir was recognized by the United Nations. In his words, the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination had resulted in 100,000 killed, 10,000 disappeared and thousands widowed.

Indian soldiers

FILE – Indian army soldiers pay tribute to a colleague killed in cross-border firing with Pakistan, during his cremation at Nachlah village in Samba District of Jammu and Kashmir, India, Feb.5, 2018.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also recently met China’s President Xi Jinping and agreed to defer the Indo-China territorial dispute by joining China’s anti-terrorism drills in Russia

Pakistan acknowledges that it agreed to conduct military patrols alongside India after the Pakistan chief of army staff, General Qamar Bajwa, recently visited Russia.

Korean model
Mushtaq Mehar, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Turkey, said recent signs of a detente between North and South Korea could serve as a model for India and Pakistan and pave the way for a softening of tensions between the two countries.

Pak commandos

FILE – Pakistani commandos from the Special Services Group march during a military parade in Islamabad, March 23, 2016.

According to him, America’s status as a superpower allows it to intervene in a “complicated matter” like the Korean Peninsula situation.

Mehar said the United States and Europe were also keen to see the militaries of India and Pakistan fight on the same side, not only to reduce tensions between the two nuclear-armed nations but also to curb the potential for terrorism exploding beyond the region.