Miscalculation and a bit of overreach on both sides and we have a regrettable end to the North Korea Summit. Each party thought the other was desperate for a deal: the North Koreans aware of President Trump’s troubles with Congress and the Oversight Committee hearings; Donald Trump misunderstanding the letters from Kim Jong Un. His promises of denuclearization are old, and intended as a final step after formal peace with South Korea and mutual disarmament. So they might close a facility here and there but that is all they are likely to do.
A more dangerous rift, for the antagonists are nuclear powers, has occurred in South Asia. Following a suicide bombing of a convoy by insurgents in Kashmir, Narendra Modi facing an uphill election battle seized the opportunity for some flag waving. An incendiary speech and Indian airplanes attacking insurgent-training areas was the result. So it is claimed but no clear photos of base damage or evidence of any kind seems to be available.
Pakistan responded. India claimed it shot down a Pakistani plane. The latter claimed the reverse with some credibility because it had the pilot in custody. Released, the pilot had glowing praise for the professionalism of Pakistan’s armed forces — possibly because they had saved him from the angry mob (the people he had been bombing) threatening him. The pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been returned to India as a gesture of goodwill. The response has been more small arms fire at the line of control killing two Pakistani soldiers. For heavier weaponry, Pakistan might have an advantage through its Chinese Sh-15 howitzers and the new Nasr missiles, which might also render a full-scale attack expensive in terms of casualties.
Some rights groups say a 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed; official Indian figures are much less. The humiliations suffered by the population are legion and the sentiments of the people obvious; which is why the promised self-determination vote has never taken place. Such a vote in both Pakistan and India controlled areas, under International supervision, is a straight-forward logical option to decide the future, relieve the misery, and reverse the present lose-lose dynamic.
Meanwhile, the shameful treatment of Kashmiri students in India during this new conflict demonstrates clearly the present feelings of the Hindu majority to the people of Kashmir. Modi’s Hindu nationalism appears to be causing irreparable long-term harm to India’s future. For in the end it threatens also the Christian, Moslem and Sikh minorities.
There is, of course, China to the north which has carved out a piece in the north previously grabbed by the British presumably. And then there is the Taliban so close and so deadly. Even Pakistan suffers their wrath from time to time — a legacy of its former US ties.
The bombing of the convoy leading to the current mess carried an inescapable Taliban signature. It is what happens when a people have tried everything: patience, peaceful demonstrations, appeals to reason. When there is nothing left, there is nothing left to lose.
Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.