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

Biden and Washington’s Perennial Pakistan Problem

Biden and Washington’s Perennial Pakistan Problem

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

By: Richard Olson

Among the many challenges facing the Biden administration will be addressing the infamously dysfunctional U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Anyone familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to tired metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, a sine wave, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. These clichés reflect the reality that the relationship has rarely been stable and usually is either declining precipitously or accelerating unsustainably. The challenge for the new administration will be to find a way to work productively with Pakistan without oscillating between peaks of enthusiasm and depths of cynicism.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

Could Water be a Flashpoint for Conflict in Pakistan?

Could Water be a Flashpoint for Conflict in Pakistan?

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

By: Jumaina Siddiqui; Faiqa Mahmood

Water has now become a commodity in many parts of the world. This is a problem in and of itself, as water is essential for every living thing. However, instead of being equally and fairly available to all, water mafias have emerged around the world and put a stranglehold on this essential resource. In Pakistan, this is most starkly seen in urban centers; however, rural areas have also been affected. Urban or rural, the most impoverished sectors of society are the ones most negatively impacted by water’s commoditization. This situation is ripe for conflict, especially in places where poor governance and rule of law are endemic. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

Pakistani Politics Roiled by Familiar Triangle: Military, Government, Opposition

Pakistani Politics Roiled by Familiar Triangle: Military, Government, Opposition

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

By: Cyril Almeida

Political uncertainty has descended on Pakistan as the combined opposition, seeking to dislodge the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has gathered under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). While the conflict may appear sudden, its roots lie in the 2018 general election, which the opposition claims was rigged by the military to carry the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) to power. With the government struggling to manage the economy and govern, and the opposition facing further parliamentary marginalization, the PDM has emerged as the most significant challenge to the PTI government so far. The PDM is also seeking to roll back the influence of the military in politics.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Civilian-Military Relations

In Karachi, Flooding Lays Bare City’s Governance Issues

In Karachi, Flooding Lays Bare City’s Governance Issues

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

By: Jumaina Siddiqui; Cyril Almeida

Many parts of Pakistan have always struggled with flooding, especially over the last decade, due in part to climate change as weather events have become more extreme. But for Pakistan’s largest city Karachi, August saw immense rainfall—breaking all previous records in the past century—and widespread flooding that brought the city to a standstill. USIP’s Jumaina Siddiqui and Cyril Almeida look at why Karachi’s flooding situation is so dire, how contentious political dynamics have impeded governance reforms in the city, and what can be done to prevent future humanitarian disasters.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Economics & Environment

View All Publications