India and Pakistan fought wars in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999 — the last one occurring after they were both nuclear-armed. The current problem started when India and Pakistan traded fire across the Line of Control in the disputed territory of Kashmir. According to a New York Times editorial on January 17:
One of the likeliest flash points for a nuclear war is the enduring conflict between India and Pakistan, which have scores of nuclear weapons. In recent weeks, several fatal incidents across the disputed Kashmir border have stoked new fears that the firing of bullets could escalate into something even worse.
The latest conflict began on Jan. 6 when Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged gunfire across the Kashmir border, leaving one Pakistani soldier dead. Two days later, another confrontation resulted in the deaths of two Indian soldiers, one of whom was beheaded. A third incident occurred on Jan. 10 when the Pakistani Army said that Indian soldiers shot and killed a Pakistani soldier. On Wednesday, Pakistan accused India of killing another of its soldiers, making the past two weeks the worst for violence in the Kashmir region since a cease-fire was reached in 2003.
And today an AP dispatch reported India taking precautions against a possible nuclear attack:
Officials in Indian-controlled Kashmir are warning residents to build bomb-proof basements, collect two weeks’ worth of food and water and be prepared for a possible nuclear war. … The notice, published Monday by the Kashmir police in the Greater Kashmir newspaper, advised people to build toilet-equipped basements large enough to house the entire family for two weeks. If there is no basement, residents should construct bunkers in their front yards, the notice advised.
While such a war is unlikely, it represents one more pull of the trigger in a deadly game of “nuclear roulette” — a global version of Russian roulette. Even if the nuclear “gun” has 1,000 chambers and only one has a bullet, if we keep pulling the trigger, it is only a matter of time before we destroy ourselves. Isn’t it time we stopped playing this suicidal game?
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