On February 14, in the disputed region of Kashmir, a suicide bomber rammed into a convoy of Indian paramilitary police, killing 44. The attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammad and was the deadliest bombing in Kashmir in three decades. Nearly two weeks after the attack, India launched a retaliatory airstrike. USIP’s Moeed Yusuf examines how the U.S. and international partners are key to preventing further escalation that could lead to nuclear war.

Transcript

First, I think we have got to understand that this is serious. I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying that since Cuba in 1962, this is the closest we’ve gotten to a real nuclear crisis. This could escalate very quickly. 

Second, unlike the Cold War, India and Pakistan do not have any dependable means of crisis de-escalation. The Pakistani Prime Minister, in fact, publicly said that they know how to get into a crisis, but where the war goes, they don’t know.

In the past, every time they’ve gotten into a major crisis— there have been 3 or 4 since they became nuclear powers in 1998—it’s been the U.S. that has gone in, mediated, and gotten them to back off. It’s been the U.S. leading the charge internationally with the Chinese, with the Brits, with the Russian all involved, giving one message: deescalate the crisis and then we will worry about everything else. 

I will say two things that have worked in the past. One: shuttle diplomacy. There were senior U.S. officials, senior officials from Britain, there was a tag team that showed up in India and Pakistan and physically made these countries realize that this needs to stop. We haven’t seen that yet and I think it needs to begin immediately.

And second: There was a clear sense in India and Pakistan that the world had united in that message. It wasn’t only allies like Britain and Europe, but it was also the Chinese and Russians playing a very seriously helping hand to make that happen. Again, it’s not clear that that can or will happen right now, but this is where we need to focus. 

There is no space for complacency— this could really escalate quickly now given where the situation is. 

Related Publications

Extending Constitutional Rights to Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

Extending Constitutional Rights to Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

By: Umar Mahmood Khan; Rana Hamza Ijaz; Sevim Saadat

When Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas were officially merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in May 2018, the five million residents of the former tribal areas acquired the same constitutional rights and protections—including access to a formal judicial system—as Pakistan’s other citizens. This report, based on field research carried out by the authors, explores the status of the formal justice system’s expansion, finding both positive trends and severe administrative and capacity challenges, and offers recommendations to address these issues.

Type: Special Report

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

India, Pakistan choke on their smog. Can they clear the air?

India, Pakistan choke on their smog. Can they clear the air?

Monday, March 29, 2021

By: Jumaina Siddiqui; Zaara Wakeel

South Asia’s extreme smog worsens each winter, helping to kill an estimated 1.2 million Indians and 128,000 Pakistanis annually—more than have died in either country from the COVID virus. As pollution this past winter exacerbated the pandemic, India’s and Pakistan’s governments responded with mutual blame. Yet COVID, and a sudden moment of détente between these bitter rivals, could offer an opportunity to address the smog crisis, and build rare collaboration with the only strategy that can work: a joint one. The governments, their U.S. and international allies and civil society should use this chance to jumpstart such an effort.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

Pakistan: A Rising Women’s Movement Confronts a New Backlash

Pakistan: A Rising Women’s Movement Confronts a New Backlash

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

By: Aleena Khan

Thousands of women rallied across Pakistan on International Women’s Day this year and demanded an end to violence against women and gender minorities. In the days since, Pakistan’s Taliban movement has escalated the threats facing the women who marched. Opponents of women’s rights doctored a video of the rally to suggest that the women had committed blasphemy—an accusation that has been frequently weaponized against minorities in Pakistan and has resulted in vigilantes killing those who are targeted.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender

Pakistan Senate Election Upsets Government Efforts to Solidify Power

Pakistan Senate Election Upsets Government Efforts to Solidify Power

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

By: Tamanna Salikuddin; Jumaina Siddiqui; Adnan Rafiq; Colin Cookman; Ambassador Richard Olson

Pakistan held indirect elections on March 3 for the Senate, its upper house of Parliament, which is elected by sitting legislators in the National Assembly (the lower house of Parliament) and each of the provincial assemblies. Given the typically party-line vote, Pakistani Senate elections tend to be mundane affairs, with the results often preordained. However, in last week’s elections the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, despite having a numerical majority in the national and provincial assemblies, failed to forestall defections among some lawmakers and in doing so failed to take control of the Senate from the opposition.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications