Kashmir can flare into a nuclear conflict: US report
22 October 2003
WASHINGTON: A Congressional report has warned the Bush administration that the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan has the potential of flaring into a major conflict between South Asia's two nuclear neighbours. The Congressional Research Service, which advises the US Congress on policy matters, also observed that further proliferation of nuclear weapons in South Asia is a strong possibility. 'So long as terrorism and Kashmir-related animosity exist between India and Pakistan the outbreak of war (is) a substantive risk,' said the 35- page report, titled 'Missile Proliferation and the Strategic Balance in South Asia'. The report, released this week, warned that 'the continued proliferation of strategic arsenals in South Asia cannot be viewed with complacence.' In the long term, the report observed, developments in four areas appear directly relevant. They are the course of India- China relations and strategic posturing; the extent of positive US Engagement with both India and Pakistan; New Delhi's weapons procurement decisions; and the possible deployment of missile defence systems. The report, however, notes that India and China have recently tried to improve relations and the US remains fully engaged with both India and Pakistan. The report pointed out the issues that cloud Washington's relations with both Islamabad and New Delhi. With Pakistan, the report says, the United States has differences over the issues of terrorism, proliferation and democratization. Differences with India involve definitions of terrorism, US policy in the Middle East and human rights. In both Islamabad and New Delhi, 'the United States is viewed by some as an unreliable ally, so the extent to which Indians and Pakistanis feel assured about long-term US engagement in the region will almost certainly affect their willingness to cooperate on those issues most important to US policy-makers,' the report said. The US relationship with Pakistan, however, has 'continued to be constrained by US concerns regarding Islamabad's possible role in WMD proliferation, terrorist infiltration into both Kashmir and across the Durand Line and perceived anti-democratic practices by President Gen Pervez Musharraf', the report observed. 'Of critical concern to both Congress and the administration,' says the report, 'is a suspected Pakistan-North Korean proliferation relationship.' 'Some experts suggest that as Pakistan's missile programmes have matured and advanced, Pakistan may be assisting North Korea in its missile programme, primarily by providing North Korea with missile test flight data.'