After a brief period of confusion, as it assessed the damage and strategic implications of the Indian attack, Islamabad vowed a strong military response. Pakistan, it declared, would not allow India to “normalize”
The next day, Indian and Pakistani
The US, China, Russia
Efforts to encircle China
Washington, in particular, has used the standoff to further its efforts to diplomatically and militarily encircle China. It publicly greenlighted India’s attack on Pakistan as “self-defense,” and is using the current crisis to underscore the strength of the Indo-US “global strategic partnership.”
Adding to the explosiveness of the situation are the interconnected socio-economic and political crises buffeting the two states, headed respectively by Narendra Modi and his Hindu supremacist BJP and the Islamic populist Imran Khan.
Elected Pakistan’s Prime Minister just seven months ago on promises of jobs, development, and increased social spending, Khan has seen his popularity plummet as his government implements IMF-demanded austerity. Modi and his BJP are shamelessly using the war crisis to muster votes for India’s multi-stage April-May general election. The BJP is accusing the opposition of imperiling “national unity,” for not ceasing all criticism of the government and for not trumpeting its claims that the “strongman” Modi has thrown off the shackles of “strategic restraint” in India’s relations with Pakistan.
With the full support of the military, the corporate media, and virtually the entire opposition, the Modi government has rejected Khan’s offer of talks. New Delhi is insisting, as it has for years, that there will be no high-level interactions, let alone “peace negotiations,” between India and Pakistan until Islamabad demonstratively capitulates to New Delhi’s demands by cutting off all logistical support from Pakistan for the Kashmir insurgency.
A nuclear catastrophe in the making?
No one should underestimate the danger of what would be the first-ever war between nuclear-armed states. Since the 2001-2002 war crisis, which saw a million Indian troops deployed on the Pakistan border for nine months, both countries have developed hair-trigger strategies, with a dynamic impelling rapid escalation. In response to India’s Cold Start strategy, which calls for the rapid mobilization of Indian forces for a multi-front invasion of Pakistan, Islamabad has deployed tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. India has, in return, signaled that any use by Pakistan of tactical nuclear weapons will break the “strategic threshold,” freeing India from its “no first use” nuclear-weapon
All this would play out in a relatively small, densely populated area. The center of Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city with a population in excess of 11 million, lies little more than 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the Indian border. The distance from New Delhi to Islamabad is significantly less than that between Berlin and Paris or New York and Detroit and would be
Nuke exchange between India and Pakistan would kill tens of millions
A nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would not only kill tens of millions in South Asia. A 2008 simulation conducted by scientists who in the 1980s alerted the world to the threat of “nuclear winter” determined that the detonation of a hundred Hiroshima-scale nuclear weapons in an Indo-Pakistani war would, due to the destruction of large cities, inject so much smoke and ash into the upper atmosphere as to trigger a global agricultural collapse. This, they predicted, would lead to a billion deaths in the months that followed South Asia’s “limited” nuclear war.
Whatever the immediate outcome of the latest war crisis—and events could easily spin out of control in the next days or weeks—it exemplifies how the breakdown of the postwar geopolitical order and the resulting surge in imperialist antagonisms and inter-state rivalry are inflaming all the unresolved conflicts and problems of the twentieth century: a century in which capitalism survived the challenge of socialist revolution, but only by dragging humanity through two world wars, fascism, and countless other horrors.
Partition and the historic failure of the national bourgeoisie
The Indo-Pakistan conflict is rooted in the 1947 communal partition of the subcontinent into an expressly Muslim Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu India—a crime perpetrated by South Asia’s departing British overlords and the political representatives of the rival factions of the native bourgeoisie, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.
Partition defied historical, cultural and economic logic and unleashed a firestorm of communal violence in which two million people were killed and another 18 million fled India to Pakistan or vice versa. But it served the cynical interests of the rival ruling elites of India and Pakistan, by bringing a bloody end to the mass anti-imperialist upsurge that had convulsed South Asia during the preceding three decades; and by giving them, as part of the independence-partition deal with London, control of the British-colonial capitalist state machine with which to meet the threat from an increasingly combative working class.
Communally-laced nationalist appeals
Unable to find any progressive solution to the problems of the masses, the Indian and Pakistani bourgeois have for the past seven decades used their strategic rivalry and communally-laced nationalist appeals as a mechanism for diverting social anger in reactionary directions.
The open wound that is Kashmir is
As for Pakistan’s venal ruling elite, it has run roughshod over the rights of the Kashmiris over whom it
Since the beginning of the current century, Washington, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, has aggressively courted India, showering it with strategic
The importance that US war-planners attach to South Asia and the Indian Ocean—the waterway that is the conduit for the oil and other resources that fuel China’s economy, as well as its exports to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East—is underscored by the recent renaming of the US Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command.
Veritable “frontline state”
Under Modi, as attested by India’s opening of its bases to US warplanes and ships and its increasing bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral strategic cooperation with the US, and its principal regional allies (Japan and Australia), India has been transformed into a veritable “frontline state” in the US military-strategic offensive against China.
Islamabad, during the Cold War Washington’s principal South Asian ally, has warned in increasingly shrill tones that US actions have shattered the “balance of power” in the region and emboldened India, but to no avail.
Consequently, Pakistan has dramatically strengthened its longstanding military-strategic partnership with China, which similarly fears the burgeoning Indo-US alliance.
Even as the US seeks to cool the current Indo-Pakistani tensions, on the calculation that an all-out South Asian war would at this point cut across its global objectives, it does so within the framework of its drive for world hegemony including ultimately subjugating China. As part of this drive, Washington has made clear that it is determined to thwart China’s efforts to make Pakistan an anchor of its Belt and Road Initiative, and in particular to use the China Pakistan Economic Corridor to counteract
In opposition to the bourgeoisie’s program of war, austerity, and communal reaction, workers and socialist-minded youth in South Asia should fight for the building of a
Such a movement will only be built in
It is in the international socialism of Lenin and Trotsky, represented today by the International Committee of the Fourth International, and the fight to undo partition from below through the struggle for workers’ power and the establishment of the Socialist United States of South Asia that the workers of India and Pakistan will find the alternative to capitalist war and reaction.