An escalating dispute


India and Pakistan have traded aerial attacks on each other’s territory, with both sides claiming they shot down attacking warplanes. This may look limited and benign but that is how major wars often start, by ignoring limited skirmishes, whether by land or air, which often escalate to a major configuration.

The international community, including the major countries, have stopped short of intervening to stop the escalation in the fighting between the two neighbouring nations, which also happen to be nuclear powers. This is most unfortunate and fraught with unlimited danger to peace and security, not only in the region, but also worldwide.

The first order of business, to contain the limited war between the two countries, is to impose a ceasefire via the UN Security Council. This can be easily done if the council is convened at the request of a member or a number of the council’s members as a matter of great urgency. The UN Security Council can immediately request a ceasefire and the return to the negotiating table. It can also call for an independent probe of the initial Indian allegation that Pakistan was behind the terrorist attack on Indian soldiers on February 14. Pakistan has denied any involvement in the attack.

Under the circumstances, instead of allowing this dispute to escalate, it is incumbent on the council to take full charge and investigate the root cause of the conflict. It is also incumbent on India and Pakistan, as two neighbouring countries, to enjoy good relations and have in place a mechanism for dealing with disputes that may erupt rather suddenly.

A standing joint Indian-Pakistani committee needs to be created for all occasions and not only for this latest crisis. This way, the committee may intervene rather quickly to diffuse any problem that may arise between the two countries.

If nuclear powers cannot get along and do not have a mechanism to deal with their differences, then there is danger that the deployment of nuclear weapons to settle disputes becomes all the more probable. That is the last thing the international community needs.


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