A few days ago, all the experts were saying there was no chance of a war between India and pakistan as a consequence of escalating tensions followin
December 28, 2008

A few days ago, all the experts were saying there was no chance of a war between India and pakistan as a consequence of escalating tensions following accusations of Pakistani involvement in attacks on Mumbai last month. Now, with reports that both nations are moving some troops to their mutual border, everyone is talking about the chance of conflict. But if that conflict happens, it will be inadvertent - an accidental exchange of fire arising from both sides' readiness to repel the other which then runs out of control - rather than a deliberate act.

Pakistan has reportedly moved some 20,000 soldiers from its border with Afghanistan, a move that will suit Pakistan's ruling elite's short term political purposes very nicely. It has also been flying 24 hour patrols on its side of the India-Pakistan border to guard against Indian probes as the Indians try to find out for themselves what the Pakistanis are up to and has cancelled officer leave. But there hasn't as yet been a major mobilization of troops towards the Indian border. India has moved some troops and heightened its military's readiness too, but there's been no general mobilization of reserves as yet. India has twice the standing armed forces of Pakistan and a vastly higher reserve manpower (there are respectively the 4th and 6th largest armed forces in the world) - in a general war between the two, 20,000 troops are a drop in the ocean and both sides know it. Indeed, that's arguably why Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons in the first place.

So there aren't widespread signs of war preperations yet and in any case both nations have to be aware that, both economically and in terms of internal stability, they cannot afford war. It's more likely that both sides are simultaneously playing to their own publics and seeking to enlist international support for their own agendas. Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution told McClatchy:

"There is nothing (the Singh government) can do except make threatening noises toward Pakistan," he said. "Both countries are rattling their sabers. These are two weak governments that are clearly trying to get the Americans nervous so they put pressure on the other country (to back down)."

He called the current atmosphere "a precursor to a crisis" that could erupt because of the high possibility of a misstep on either side.

"We are in a period of touch-and-go," he said.

It's not just America - the Chinese, who are even more Pakistan's military ally than ever the US could hope to be and cannot be happy about even the smallest prospect of an inadvertent nuclear war on their borders, are now involved in trying to get both countries to scale back their posturing too.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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