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.


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

Pakistan’s Shifting Political and Economic Winds

Pakistan’s Shifting Political and Economic Winds

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

By: Uzair Younus

There was an air of optimism in May 2021, when Pakistan’s finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, told Bloomberg that his government would spend almost $6 billion to create jobs and stimulate growth. The aim, he argued, was to achieve a GDP growth rate of over 5 percent. Fast forward to October and the tone has significantly changed, with the finance minister informing an audience in Washington that growth had to be moderated to prevent macroeconomic risks from materializing, meaning that Pakistan cannot afford to grow too fast. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Taliban Seek Recognition, But Offer Few Concessions to International Concerns

Taliban Seek Recognition, But Offer Few Concessions to International Concerns

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

By: Kate Bateman;  Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.;  Ambassador Richard Olson;  Andrew Watkins

Since taking power in August, the Taliban have repeatedly expressed the expectation that the international community will recognize their authority as the new government of Afghanistan and have taken several procedural steps to pursue recognition. But the group has done very little to demonstrate a willingness to meet the conditions put forward by Western powers and some regional states. USIP’s Andrew Watkins, Richard Olson, Asfandyar Mir and Kate Bateman assess the latest Taliban efforts to win international recognition, the position of Pakistan and other key regional players and options for U.S. policy to shape Taliban behavior and the engagement decisions of other international partners.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyReconciliation

How the Region is Reacting to the Taliban Takeover

How the Region is Reacting to the Taliban Takeover

Thursday, August 19, 2021

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.;  Donald N. Jensen, Ph.D.;  Garrett Nada;  Tamanna Salikuddin;  Andrew Scobell, Ph.D.

While the Taliban’s swift advance into Kabul over the weekend has left much of the West reeling, Afghans themselves will bear the brunt of the militant group’s rule. Beyond Afghanistan’s borders, its neighbors will feel the most immediate impact. Earlier this year, Russia, China and Pakistan affirmed that the future of Afghanistan should be decided through dialogue and political negotiations. How will they engage with the Taliban now?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Afghanistan-Pakistan Ties and Future Stability in Afghanistan

Afghanistan-Pakistan Ties and Future Stability in Afghanistan

Thursday, August 12, 2021

By: Grace Easterly;  Elizabeth Threlkeld

The situation in Afghanistan—and with it the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship—is likely to worsen in the short term. The prospect of a prolonged civil war or full Taliban takeover now looms large as hopes of a negotiated settlement recede. Whatever the outcome, the countries’ bilateral relationship will continue to be shaped by tensions that have characterized it for more than a century. This report examines these sources of tension and identifies potential openings for engagement that could, over time, become sources of stability and growth.

Type: Peaceworks

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications