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Nuclear Powers on Brink as Air Strikes, Gun Battles Rattle Fragile Peace

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A tense animosity and a sharp rivalry between India and Pakistan that’s been going on for decades, in part over the disputed ownership of the region of Kashmir located between the two nuclear-armed nations, has been sharply ignited in recent days.

A series of airstrikes, aircraft shoot-downs, cross-border artillery strikes and gun battles between the two nations threaten to escalate into a full-on military conflict if cooler heads don’t soon prevail, Reuters reported.

A suicide-bombing attack by Pakistan-based terrorists on Feb. 14 in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir sparked the recent conflict. The bombing reportedly killed at least 40 members of an Indian paramilitary police group in the region.

India finally retaliated for the attack Tuesday, launching airstrikes against the terror organizations training camp deep inside Pakistani territory. While India claimed to have killed upward of 300 militants in those strikes, Pakistan claimed nobody was killed at all.

Following the strikes by India against the terrorist camp, Pakistan launched airstrikes of its own against Indian targets in Kashmir, though Pakistan claimed to have deliberately missed those strikes to ensure there were no casualties or escalation, but merely to make a point about their capabilities.

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India responded by scrambling jets of their own. There are conflicting reports of aircraft on both sides being shot down by, with at least one Indian pilot purportedly being held captive by Pakistan after crashing in Pakistani territory.

The official Twitter account of the Pakistani government reportedly posted a video of a bloodied and blindfolded man they claim is the captured Indian pilot, as well as a screenshot of a second video circulating on social media which purported to show that man sipping tea and chatting amicably with his captors.

India’s foreign ministry replied with a statement which demanded the pilot be immediately released and said the alleged treatment of him was a “vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention.”

As of the Reuters report, India has closed the main airport in their portion of Kashmir, as well as three others close to the border region. Pakistan has completely shut down their entire airspace, even canceling all commercial flight traffic in and out of the nation.

Are you concerned about a potential nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan?

In what may or may not be a separate and unrelated issue, an Indian military helicopter reportedly crashed in the Indian portion of Kashmir. It is unknown what caused the helicopter to crash, but there were reports that at least four passengers and one civilian were killed in the incident.

Meanwhile, as aerial battles raged in the skies above, there were artillery barrages and sporadic gunfire across the Line of Control that separates Kashmir, as well as other portions of the India-Pakistan border. India claimed that only a handful of soldiers were wounded and no civilians were killed on its side, while Pakistan has claimed that at least four people were killed and seven wounded on their side, some of whom were civilians.

Should these tit-for-tat strikes escalate into a larger conflict, it would be the fourth war between the two former British colonies since both gained independence in 1947. However, the fact that both nations are armed with nuclear weapons has raised the stakes considerably over previous conflicts, the last of which occurred in 1971, though both nations had reached but stepped back from the brink of a conflict in 2002.

A number of world powers, including the United States, European Union and China have urged both sides to exercise caution and restraint in the current dispute.

“I expressed to both ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost. I also encouraged both ministers to prioritize direct communication and avoid further military activity,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

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The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, said in a statement on Pakistani television that both sides need to de-escalate the situation and come together for talks. “History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation,” he said. “My question is that, given the weapons we have, can we afford miscalculation?”

Khan’s mention of the “weapons” that could be put into play was undoubtedly a reference to the nuclear arsenals on by both sides. Considering the disparity in population between the two nations — India has over a billion people, Pakistan just a few hundred million — some fear that Pakistan could be compelled to resort to using those nuclear weapons if a conventional battle grew too large for them to adequately manage.

We can only hope and pray that cooler heads will eventually prevail in this dust-up between India and Pakistan, as all eyes focus in and watch carefully to see how this latest dispute plays out.

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Ben Marquis is a writer who identifies as a constitutional conservative/libertarian. He has written about current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. His focus is on protecting the First and Second Amendments.
Ben Marquis has written on current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. He reads voraciously and writes about the news of the day from a conservative-libertarian perspective. He is an advocate for a more constitutional government and a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, which protects the rest of our natural rights. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the love of his life as well as four dogs and four cats.
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