India And Pakistan Exchange Fire In Kashmir

As America prepares for a Presidential transition, an old conflict with a history of turning dangerous rears its head.

India Pakistan Flags

As the United States journeys into an extended holiday weekend and the American media concentrates mostly on the Trump transition process, an old conflict may be heating up on the other side of the world:

NEW DELHI — Firing intensified Wednesday on the de facto border between India and Pakistan, a day after the Indian Army promised retribution for what it said was the killing of three of its soldiers.

Pakistan said Indian fire had struck a passenger bus in the Neelam Valley on Pakistan’s side of the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region, killing seven civilians and wounding seven others. Indian fire also killed three Pakistani soldiers, including a captain, Pakistan said, and it retaliated, killing seven Indian soldiers.

India defended its actions.

“It was a proper fire assault from our side as a retribution of yesterday’s incident,” said Brig. P. S. Gotra of the Indian Army’s northern command, which includes the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. He denied that any Indian soldiers had been killed in the firing on Wednesday.

“Both countries are firing at each other,” he said.

Exchanges of fire on the Line of Control that divides Kashmir have been unrelenting in recent months, despite a cease-fire agreement that was signed in 2003. Those exchanges were amplified Wednesday, with India launching its assault, and firing took place at more than a dozen locations, Brigadier Gotra said.

“All along the Line of Control, cease-fire violations are going on today,” he said.

Pakistan, in a statement, accused India of initiating the attack to divert scrutiny from problems in Kashmir, the northern region that has been the subject of a long-running dispute between the two countries. Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistan Army’s media wing, said India was targeting the civilian population across the Line of Control toward the Pakistan side to distract attention from the atrocities in Indian-held Kashmir by Indian troops.

The prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, said in a statement that “continuing naked Indian aggression” had led to the deaths of innocent people.

“India has failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Indian Army said that three of its soldiers had been killed on the border and that one of the bodies had been mutilated. The army promised to retaliate for “this cowardly act.” In past statements, mutilation has referred to beheading; it was the second time in recent weeks that an Indian serviceman’s body had been reported to have been mutilated.

Brigadier Gotra said on Tuesday that it was unclear whether the soldiers had been killed by the Pakistani Army, militants or a combination of the two.

News such as this is hardly new, of course. There have been many times over the years when tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir have intensified, usually because one nation accuses the other of having done something to violate the ongoing ceasefire or because of a mistaken exchange of fire or movement of troops that caused the other side to respond due to the fact that tensions, and indeed arms, in the region have been on a hair trigger for decades now. Most of the time, though, these exchanges resolve themselves in a matter of days or weeks and the situation has not descended into what can fairly be described as a war since 1999 during what has come to be called the Kargil War, a conflict that lasted roughly a month from May to June 1999. Since that time, there have been standoffs and other incidents in 2001 and 2002, 2008, 2011, 2013, and 2014, none of which resulted in a full-fledged conflict or movement of troops by either side, and it’s likely that tensions will eventually cool down as they have in the past. At the same time, though, it’s also possible that we could be looking at a part of the world that could present challenges to the incoming President and his Administration, one that would be difficult for the United States and its close allies such as the United Kingdom to ignore or neglect given all the factors involved and the dangers that a wider conflict pose to the region and beyond.

As in the past when tensions have flared between India and Pakistan, the primary concern the outside world has had, of course, is the fact that both of these nations are nuclear powers who reportedly have somewhat lax control over the security and rules for deploying their nuclear arsenal, thus raising the risk that a misunderstanding risks spiraling out of control and ending in tragedy. Beyond the nuclear fears, though, it’s fairly clear that any conflict between the two nations would pose problems. For better or worse, Pakistan remains a major and important ally in the War On Terror, especially as it concerns al Qaeda. Additionally, in the past it has been accused of being lax about who it shares its nuclear and missile technology with, even if that means dealing with rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran. India, on the other hand, is important the world’s second most populated nation, has been engaged in a significant military buildup in recent years in response to both the tensions with Pakistan and its rivalry with China, and has developed closer relations with the United States as a result. Finally, any increase in tensions between India and Pakistan in this part of the world must also take into account the potential of involvement of China, either unintentionally or due to Beijing feeling it has no choice but to get involved, given the fact that China has also expressed claims in the disputed region. Hopefully, as I said, this will be another incident that resolves itself quickly, and in that regard there are already signs of the two sides seeking to cool things down, but this is yet another reminder that we have no idea of what kind of decisions the incoming National Security apparatus in Washington will be faced with over the next four years.

FILED UNDER: Asia, National Security, Science & Technology, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. george says:

    Two nuclear powers taking shots at each other’s soldiers. What could possibly go wrong?

  2. Andrew says:

    From 2011:

    I talked with the president at one of those fundraisers some months back, and I asked him, “What keeps you up at night?”
    And he said, “Everything. Everything that gets to my desk is a critical mass. If it gets to my desk, then no one else could have handled it.” So I said, “So what’s the one that keeps you up at night?”
    He goes, “There are quite a few.”
    So I go, “What’s the one? Period.”
    And he says, “Pakistan.”

  3. C. Clavin says:

    WW3 within Trumps term.

  4. Mikey says:

    Trump has huge business deals going on in India and has spoken to his Indian business partners since winning the election. Even the perception of pro-India bias in the India-Pakistan tensions could prompt Pakistan to escalate. It’s a tremendous risk and one Trump appears either ignorant of or willing to chance because he refuses to go truly “blind trust.”

  5. wr says:

    Maybe Jared Kushner could swing by and straighten this out on his way to fixing Israel and Palestine.

  6. James Pearce says:

    @C. Clavin: @Mikey: This doesn’t have much to do with US electoral politics, though. These countries have been rivals/enemies for decades and the current tensions stem from a military operation India launched into Kashmir back in September.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @James Pearce:
    It as everything to do with US electoral politics because 46.6 percent of America decided to elect a thin-skinned ignorant infant who is woefully ill-equipped for the job.
    And as Mikey points out…with business interests in India the Cheeto-Jesus has a tremendous conflict of interest that makes the ability of the US to be seen as a fair-broker, in any peace effort, impossible.

  8. James Pearce says:

    @C. Clavin:

    46.6 percent of America decided to elect a thin-skinned ignorant infant who is woefully ill-equipped for the job.

    While I agree with this characterization, it still doesn’t mean that this has anything to do with the election back in November.

    India and Pakistan have been at each other’s throats over the Kashmir since 1947, when India was partitioned and Pakistan was created. The current tensions have their roots in a couple of incidents this summer, and have been really high since a September attack on an an Indian Air Force base that killed 19 soldiers. It might have made the papers….

    I heard about it after reading about how Bollywood filmmakers have basically stopped working with any Pakistani talent.

    Also, don’t expect the US to play much of a role in negotiating anything between India and Pakistan. Both countries are ostensible allies, and we’re not going to pick a side. Even under Trump.

  9. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce: The US has very scrupulously maintained a neutral position in the India-Pakistan conflict. This has been the case for Obama’s presidency and it has limited the conflict to relatively minor dust-ups like the one that is the subject of this post.

    However, Trump’s election brings a real risk of upsetting that balance because he has business interests in India with politically-connected partners, and has openly spoken of Pakistan as a terrorist state. I think it goes without saying that a disturbance in the already-tenuous stability (such as it is) between two nuclear-armed nations would be very risky indeed.

    The key is that Trump’s business dealings, if he doesn’t truly remove himself (and I’m not sure it’s even possible), could upset that balance regardless of our official position of neutrality. And if he doesn’t STFU about Pakistan and terrorism, it’s even worse.

    That’s how American electoral politics matter there.

  10. James Pearce says:


    because he has business interests in India with politically-connected partners, and has openly spoken of Pakistan as a terrorist state.

    Sure….but India’s in the G-20 and Pakistan is not. If an American has business interests in the region, they’re probably going to be in India.

    Also, Pakistan is a terrorist state and has been for decades. Officially, we pretend they’re not, but everyone knows that’s just being diplomatic.

    And while I do think Trump should probably divest so he can focus on his new job, I don’t think his business dealings will influence anything at all about this conflict.

    If they needed an excuse, maybe….but neither Pakistan nor India needs an excuse.

  11. Mu says:

    Aside of any Trump effect, I’d be more worried about someone locally considering the demographic effect of a major war and letting fly. Both countries have an excess of young men with no chance of marriage, in India due to gender selective abortions, in Pakistan due to polygamy. A war tends to reduce those numbers nicely, and deflect from internal social issues.

  12. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    In other news Russia has just moved nuclear-capable missile platforms into its Kaliningrad enclave which puts them in spitting distance of the Polish NATO border. Good times …

  13. Slugger says:

    Off topic:
    Thank you for providing this site. Thanks to all commentors especially the ones who disagree with me and make me think.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Mu: I guess it’s all good then….

    (I’m reminded of a pair of lines from a science fiction duology (Northshore/Southshore by Sherri Tepper: in the first novel, one of the rulers, trying to swat down war talk, asks: “What is the good of dead young men?” In the second novel, after all the attempts to avoid war fail and the ruler starts her people fleeing from what is now a civil war among all the other parties, she comments bitterly: “the good of dead young men is that they are dead.”)

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    OT: it seems that Jill Stein & the Green Party are apparently intent on formally requesting statewide recounts in WI, MI and PA. We’ll see if they follow through I guess.

  16. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    And while I do think Trump should probably divest so he can focus on his new job, I don’t think his business dealings will influence anything at all about this conflict.

    We diplomatically look the other way at Pakistani actions for multiple reasons, but a major one is maintaining official neutrality between them and India. Because that keeps the nukes from coming out.

    Unless Trump truly removes himself from his businesses, I don’t see how we avoid upsetting that balance. In fact, there may already be signs of trouble–shortly following Trump’s meeting with his powerful Indian business partners, Pakistan’s foreign minister issued a statement calling India’s no-first-use of nukes pledge “ambiguous.” This is a matter of concern, to say the least.

    I really don’t want to see what happens if Pakistan starts believing the US is falling in on India’s side.

  17. JohnMcC says:

    Completely off-topic and possibly it might seem callous of me to mention it but the Wagah Gate Retreat Ceremony is an absolutely amazing display of — gosh, what to call it — military and very macho dancing. Both armies participate and the youtube videos are astonishing.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    The real acid test is what the US decides to do when a property labeled “TRUMP” on the other side of the world gets attacked. Because you just KNOW that’s going to happen. Anyone who thinks that Trump’s election hasn’t made every TRUMP hotel a target worldwide as synecdoche for the US has cracked nuts in his head.

    So has the US and its military just signed up to defend every single piece of TRUMP property all over the planet? Yeah, that’ll go good over with the rubes…..

    If the Republican Army had the backbone of a mouse, they’d tell Trump “you were the one who chose to run for POTUS, you were the one who refused to sell your property. All of this is on your head. Suck it up.” But are they going to do that? Nooo…..

    The only advantage I see is that the anti-Trump backlash will be even quicker if the Trumpenproletariat suddenly realize that their support of the man means that the US is now a sitting duck everywhere and all the money getting poured into the military means NO infrastructure NO redoing of the coal mines and NO fence…

  19. stonetools says:

    I am so glad that a man known for his grasp of international affairs, his studiousness, and his calm, even tempered approach to decision -making is about to take the helm at this time of tension between nuclear powers.

    – posting from an alternate universe where Barack Obama was allowed to run for a third term and defeated Trump in a landslide :-(.