Who really controls Pakistan?

How dangerous is the escalation between India and Pakistan?

India and Pakistan are once again on the verge of war. In the past few decades (1947, 1965, 1999), the two rivals have already fought three wars for Kashmir, a region that both claim completely for themselves but only partially rule. Both countries have had nuclear weapons since 1974 (India) and 1998 (Pakistan), which makes any escalation all the more dangerous.

New Delhi justified its Tuesday air strikes in Pakistan by saying that the target was the training camp of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). JeM demands the independence of the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir). The group claimed to be responsible for the suicide attack in Pulwama district, in which more than 40 Indian soldiers were killed. JeM also has ties to Al-Qaeda and regularly attacks military targets in Jammu and Kashmir. The attack was therefore not an attack on Pakistan, but an act of self-defense, according to India.

Islamabad, in turn, rejects any involvement in the attack in Pulwama. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government is ready to take action against JeM if evidence of their involvement in the attack is presented. Pakistan also rejects any support for Islamists in Kashmir or elsewhere.

Nuclear warheads India - Pakistan

Incalculable risk

On Wednesday, according to Pakistani information, Indian planes again entered its airspace. Two were shot down near the Kashmiri border. India, on the other hand, claims to have shot down a Pakistani plane in its airspace. There is no confirmation from uninvolved parties. The further escalation has caused concern around the world. Although Pakistan and India are downplaying the risk of nuclear war, many international observers are alarmed.

"All wars are incalculable. Nobody knows where they will lead," Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his address to the nation on Wednesday immediately after the news of the recent escalation. "World War I was supposed to end in weeks, but it lasted for years. Nobody in the US foresaw that the war on terror would last 17 years." And addressed to India: "I ask India: With the weapons that you have and the weapons that we have, can we afford to misjudge ourselves? If this escalates now, the course of events will not be of either me or Narendra Modi can be controlled. "

Test of the Indian ICBM Agni-V in 2012

Atomic potential

Both countries have missiles that can be armed with nuclear warheads. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, India has nine different operational missile systems. This includes the Agni-3 missile, which can hit targets up to 5,000 kilometers away. Pakistan's missiles, which were built with Chinese support, can also reach any target in India, according to CSIS.

India and Pakistan also have smaller nuclear warheads that can be deployed on short-range missiles (range 50 to 100 kilometers), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). After all, the arsenal also contains nuclear weapons that can be dropped by bombers. When all nuclear warheads are added together, Pakistan has 140 to 150 and India has 130 to 140.

The last armed conflict over Kashmir so far was in 1999, starting with Pakistan, which got a bloody nose.

Imbalance as a risk

Behind Pakistan's nuclear weapons program lies the perception of India as a threat. "Pakistani officials keep saying that their nuclear weapons are 'India-specific'. But with India's military clout growing faster due to its greater economic power, Islamabad believes it needs more nuclear weapons to deter India," said Toby Dalton of the Carnegie Foundation in an earlier interview with Deutsche Welle.

According to many experts, the growing military inequality between India and Pakistan is one of the main risks. Michael Kugelmann of the Woodrow Wilson Center is convinced that the clear conventional inferiority of Pakistan increases the risk of nuclear war: "If Pakistan's retaliatory actions in the current conflict were to lead to a massive (conventional) counter-attack by India, a nuclear escalation would have to be a nuclear strike To worry."

Talat Masood, a former Pakistani army general and security expert, is more reluctant. He told DW that he doesn't think the current Kashmiri crisis is escalating into a nuclear conflict: "Yes, there are these concerns because tensions are increasing and there are no talks. Pakistan has offered talks, but India will not accept it because the elections are just around the corner. " Elections will be held in India at the end of April / beginning of May.

Territorial claims in the Kashmir region

Pakistani nuclear weapons under control?

Another concern is that any war-like situation could lead to chaos in South Asia. The result: nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of extremists. Security expert Maria Sultan from Islamabad emphasizes that Pakistan has its nuclear weapons under control. "Pakistan has the ability to control its nuclear arsenal and the technology is very advanced." All concerns of the West that Pakistan is not in control of its nuclear weapons are unfounded.

Other experts such as the Pakistani researcher Farooq Sulehria, who works in Sweden, are less sure of this, but also believe that the risk of nuclear war is often overestimated in the Western media.

Can the USA contribute to the de-escalation again this time?

Mediations started

Efforts to avert war between India and Pakistan are already underway. Some observers even believe that the threat of nuclear war could lead to increased efforts by the international community to bring India and Pakistan to the table. Ex-General Talat Masood is convinced that Washington could mediate. "Earlier, during the so-called Kargil War in Kashmir in 1999, open and hidden pressure from Washington was able to calm the situation. Washington should mediate behind the scenes. Without interference from the USA and the international community, the situation could escalate."

The US has already responded. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "We are supporting India and Pakistan in their efforts to hold back and avoid an escalation." India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is currently on a state visit to Pakistan's closest partner China, said: "New Delhi does not want any further escalation."