India-Pakistan Nuclear
War Potential Threatens
A Billion People
From Jason Burke
In Hunzi Ghund, Pakistan
India and Pakistan's conflict over Kashmir could become a full-scale nuclear war threatening a billion people, it was claimed last night.
Chaudhry Sultan Mahmood, prime minister of the Pakistan-held part of Kashmir, warned: "The situation is getting very serious, volatile and dangerous. I think there is a very, very great chance of all-out war."
He added: "Unfortunately, both countries now have the bomb, and when it escalates to the extent of violating air space then you use more, stronger weapons. The time comes that you feel you better do it first, you attack first."
Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighters over its portion of Kashmir on Thursday, increasing tension in the region over which two wars have been fought in the last half-century. Kashmir is now divided by a ceasefire line accepted after the last war.
Yesterday Islamic guerrillas fighting Indian forces in Kashmir claimed responsibility for shooting down an Indian helicopter gunship. "The situation has escalated," said Mahmood. "I think this demands urgency. I think that the international community must intervene." Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he talked to his Indian counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee and told him that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved without talks.
"I talked to Vajpayee today and asked him where is this leading to," Sharif told a public meeting in Karachi to mark the first anniversary of Pakistan's successful nuclear tests. "I told him and he agreed that there is no solution to Kashmir except talks."Pakistan urged India to halt its military crackdown on the disputed Kashmir border region, warning that hostilities threatened not only regional peace, but world peace. "The situation is very volatile, the two nuclear powers should not be in a state of confrontation," said a foreign ministry spokesman. In total, Pakistan and India have fought three wars since 1947.