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What’s going on with India and Pakistan?  

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Grayson Knox, columnist

If you’ve been reading the headlines lately, you’ve probably wondered what is going on with India and Pakistan. Why are they fighting? Why is it important? Hopefully this article can shed some light on the situation and why it matters.

A Brief History of India and Pakistan

In the 1800s, European nations struggled to expand their empires across the globe during the Age of Imperialism. India, a center of Eastern trade and home to numerous valuable resources (such as exotic spices), was quickly eyed by France and Britain. By the 1850s, the British East India Company had taken over most of the country before Queen Victoria annexed it into the Empire.

Britain turned India into the Crown Jewel of its empire, using its vast array of natural resources to fuel its industry. However, Indians themselves suffered under the colonial government that saw them as second class citizens in their own country. Thanks to the efforts of leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, the weakened post-WWII British government agreed that India would receive its independence.

However, internal conflicts between Indian Hindus and the country’s Muslim minorities began to rise. The Muslims were fearful of Hindu rule of the new government, and the Hindus didn’t want to accept a Muslim leader. Although Gandhi pushed for compromise, confrontations across the country still grew violent. The British decided that India had to be partitioned to create a homeland for the nation’s Muslims. India’s Muslim provinces became their own independent country, Pakistan.

After receiving their independence from Britain in 1947, internal conflict only continued to grow. Hindus in Pakistan moved to India, while Muslims in India trekked to Pakistan. Both groups violently clashed. This only fueled animosity between the two populations, made only worse with the debate around the region of Kashmir.

Kashmir was a province that was caught between India and Pakistan. Its government was Hindu, but its people were Muslim. Kashmir’s Hindu leader ceded control of the region to India, which led to war with Pakistan. The UN negotiated a ceasefire and split portions of Kashmir to both India and Pakistan. Although the borders were intended to be temporary, they are in place to this day.

What’s Happening in Kashmir Now?

Just prior to the clashes last week, 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed by a car bomb in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir. The Indian government immediately accused Pakistan of aiding the bombers, while Pakistan denied any involvement. India launched aerial strikes into Kashmir in the name of fighting the terrorist group responsible for the bombing, the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Pakistan responded with air strikes of their own across the Kashmir “line of control” in order to demonstrate their capacity for self-defense, arguing that India’s bombings were acts of terror committed against Pakistan.

Since then, fighting has escalated. Pakistani soldiers have opened fire on Indian soldiers from across the border lines, injuring five. Two Indian planes have also been shot down, and one pilot has been captured by Pakistan’s military. Over the course of the clashes, seven Pakistanis have been killed, as well as four Indians. Following international calls to stand down the conflict from the US, Britain, and China, efforts have been made to curtail the conflict.

Tensions have eased somewhat over the course of the week, namely with Pakistan returning a downed Indian fighter pilot as a gesture of peace, but the conflict is far from done. India and Pakistan have rallied their militaries, and the jingoistic rhetoric of their leaders have only increased in tempo.

Why does it matter?

The Kashmir clashes are an issue of global importance because of the sheer military power of both parties involved; both India and Pakistan are nuclear capable countries, each with the capacity to blow each other to oblivion.

India has the second largest population in the world; a nuclear war between them and Pakistan would be catastrophic and cost millions of lives. The effects of nuclear weaponry could even cause a “nuclear winter”, which will lead to massive global cooling. The following “nuclear summer” could then lead to runaway global warming.

It is also theorized that a nuclear exchange would also create a massive hole in the ozone layer, allowing harmful UV rays to easily hit the surface of the earth and cause massive genetic damage. Although most of these scenarios are still theoretical, it would be for the best that we don’t test them the hard way.

Hopefully the situation will cool down given time. After all, this isn’t the first time these countries have clashed over Kashmir. However, until that happens, the entire situation is a risk not just for India and Pakistan, but the whole world.

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What’s going on with India and Pakistan?