Why the India-Pakistan Crisis Matters

Article excerpt

There has often been serious tension between India and Pakistan over the last 50 years, but concern about a shooting war between the two Southeast Asian neighbors has now heightened.

The immediate reason is last December's suicide attack on the Indian parliament, allegedly by terrorists trained and supported by Pakistan. But the underlying issue remains Kashmir.

Both countries have massed troops and arms along their 1,100-mile border, the largest buildup in a decade. Both routinely boast of their nuclear capability, significantly improved with the successful testing of nuclear devices in the spring of 1998.

The tension is escalating just as the United States is developing new and closer relationships with New Delhi and Islamabad. It threatens the American war on terror in Afghanistan, where the Pakistani army plays a major role as guardian of the Afghan border.

At the heart of the crisis is the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, where Muslim nationalists are waging an insurgency against Indian rule. The impasse began 55 years ago when Kashmir, over the strong objections of its Muslim majority, became part of Hindu-dominated India. Since then, India has consistently vetoed any outside resolution of the dispute, including a referendum, fearful that giving up Kashmir might set in motion demands for self-determination in other parts of India.

The United States needs Pakistan to wage a successful war on terrorism, so keeping Pakistani President Musharraf in power is a top priority. At the same time, America and India, as the world's two largest democracies, share a number of interests, including increasing trade and investment and stopping the spread of terrorism.

This Special Report examines the causes and possible solutions of the India-Pakistan crisis and why the United States must play a major role in resolving it. …