The Columbian-FARC Peace Accord offers both hope and despair to those endangered by conflicts like the Syrian Civil War and numerous others. Negotiated over the course of four long years with the aid of US and European partners, after more than five decades of armed rebellion, the peace deal exemplifies how the International Community can address insurgent conflicts, yet the longevity of the war also reveals a bleak future for those caught in war-torn regions. It is, however, important to recognize these long-waged wars are perpetuated by a failure of governments and warring factions to address the interests of the conflicting parties. Only when this is done can a conflict be resolved.
Although the Syrian Civil War has captured the attention of the international media and world leaders, the violent struggle between rivals India and Pakistan, which were once parts of the same country, over Jammu and Kashmir is far more devastating and far more threatening to the world. Like the Syrian Civil War and the Columbian Conflict with FARC, terrorism and military threats have arisen due to a lack of peace and stability. The human rights and basic needs of civilians have also been swept aside for the sake of war. Where the threat of terrorism should unite the Indians and Pakistanis in their pursuit of security and stability, growing tensions have compelled Indian and Pakistani leadership to lash out at each other by accusing their revivals of supporting terrorism.
In the case of Pakistan and India where war between nuclear powers is already a reality, the true threat is in what situation might convince military leaders that the use of nuclear weapons would be necessary. While the extreme case of an Indian or Pakistani invasion/victory could scare Pakistan or India into using their nuclear weapons is most obvious and not likely, security forces might decide a strategic use of their nuclear arsenals could crush the capacity of the enemy’s military to respond to such an attack. An escalation of current hostilities or a protracted conflict between India and Pakistan would, of course, threaten regional stability.
Not only would such a conflict divert resources from far more pressing endeavors needed to address the needs of the growing populations of these already overcrowded nations, war creates even more room for terrorists to operate with impunity. It is also important to recognize a country like China may have a perceived benefit from India and Pakistan weakening each other due to the fact China is a competitor of both countries. An Indian-Pakistani war would also offer China economic benefits in terms of weapons sales, but the destructive nature of war, as well as its strain on two already dysfunctional governments, would only result in added pressure on Chinese resources and infrastructure when displaced Indian and Pakistani refugees start seeking shelter inside their more stable neighbors.
That said, the most pressing threat could actually come from North Korea. With several unknowns hinting at potential internal threats, issues like the democratization of the region as exemplified by the Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, and the North’s long time dependence on an increasingly aggressive China, an Indian-Pakistani war could be perceived as a threat or an opportunity for the North. North Korea is a small, insecure nation among giants with a deluded sense of importance and nuclear weapons, thus its leadership could see an advantage in pitting India, Pakistan, and China against each other. Mixing terrorism and nuclear weapons could be seen as a means of achieving North Korean “supremacy.”
In truth, the policies and practices both India and Pakistan have helped militant groups flourish, their past and present misdoing are being used as an excuse to escalate conflict between these nuclear revivals. The same dynamic can be seen in conflicts like the Syrian Civil War and the Israeli-Pakistani conflict. Unable to police Hamas militants, the Palestinian often pay the heaviest price when Hamas attacks Israel. In turn, further attacks on Israel are often justified when Israel defends itself. In Syria, Russia’s support of the Assad regime and the Assad regime’s attacks on rebels are often viewed as means of perpetuating war. US restraint in its bombing campaigns and rebel attacks on Assad regime forces are also painted as support for terrorism.
While war leaves no one free of guilt, the failure to overcome the “blame game” and unite around the threat of terrorism only helps terrorism flourish. It also escalates tensions between rival factions, which can eventually escalate into armed conflict. Instead of becoming the common enemy, terrorism becomes the reason rival factions fight. Unfortunately, this degenerative dynamic is why war between rival factions continues for decades. It is also why conflicts between rival factions escalate to armed conflict in the first place. As bad as the Syrian Civil War has become, escalating tensions between India and Pakistan can bring far greater devastation to the world, which is why it is important to overcome the need to simply assign blame when it comes to terrorism.
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