CGP Director of Governance in Muslim-Majority States, Dr. Kamran Bokhari speaks with Dr. Moeed Yusuf, Associate Vice President of the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace, about the unprecedented escalation in the conflict between India and Pakistan.
Yusuf, the author of “Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments: U.S. Crisis Management in South Asia,” notes that the ebb and flow of tensions between the two South Asian rivals is nothing new. The last true paradigm shift between India and Pakistan, Yusuf says, was with the advent of nuclear weapons. Since 1998 the two countries have continually tested each other’s limits while remaining below the nuclear threshold.
Responses to recent attacks have included the use of air power. Yusuf notes that a land incursion between India and Pakistan could lead to rapid escalation because the border region is so heavily populated. For instance, he says, about 5 kilometers from the border is Lahore — Pakistan’s second-largest city. Airstrikes are less risky because they can target relatively isolated areas and serve as symbolic actions.
The tensions between India and Pakistan have created fertile ground for terrorist organizations, Yusuf says. Groups such as Daesh, al Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammed or Kashmiri militant outfits could seize this moment to build momentum even as Pakistan faces continuing pressure to move terrorists out of its territory. Pakistan has a terrible reputation globally, Yusuf says, and the only way to clear it is to deal with terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil.
In the meantime, Yusuf says it is important for India and Pakistan to stop using third parties to resolve issues and begin holding direct strategic discussions with each other. He notes that in the early 2000s, the United States helped the two countries craft a peace plan, and peace was nearly achieved when the Mumbai attacks occurred. The best way to get India and Pakistan to talk to each other directly, Yusuf says, is for a third party to facilitate direct talks and then back out of the process, leaving the traditional rivals to talk with each other.