In the after-effect of Mumbai terror attacks, while India and Pakistan seem to sit at the threshold of a possible war and hawks in both the countries talk of Ã¢â‚¬Ëœfinal battleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ terrorists thrive on the growing conflict between the two nations. Two-way communication has been riddled with knee-jerk reactions, war of words, hatred, misunderstanding, and eventually war hysteria. India wants Pakistan to act while Pakistan is aggressive in denial. Historically, the rivalry between India and Pakistan resembles the traditional family hostility of two brothers of the same mother. Already we have fought three major wars, in addition to countless skirmishes during the last 60 years of our existence.Ã‚Â And this time, if there is a war, only winners would be the terrorists who have been responsible for wrecking devastation in both the countries. Instead, if the two countries exploit the correct formula for close co-operation against a common enemy, they will come out as true victors. It is disheartening to note how a simple solution is made so difficult by the hostile approach of both the countries.
The war like situation that exists now is different from its predecessors: this will not be a war against a country; this will be not be a war for the liberation of people either. Rather, it will be a war against what is called non-state players, i.e. terrorist individuals and organisations operating from within Pakistan. Not only leaders but also public are so ready for a war, with no realization of the consequences. An Indian attack on Pakistan soil would mean no less than a full scale war. There is likely possibility that an Indo-Pak war at this stage might go nuclear, not to forget that the sub-continent escaped nuclear holocaust by the skin of its teeth during the Kargil war. Perhaps this time it might not be that lucky. But who will pay the price?
Let us turn to unprecedented casualty in case of a nuclear conflict: Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), the New York based global think tank, in its report, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Consequences of Nuclear Conflict between India and PakistanÃ¢â‚¬Â has calculated the human costs of an Indo-Pak nuclear conflict. As per NRDC estimates, both countries have a total of 50 to 75 nuclear weapons. Depicting a nuclear war Scenario (10 bombs on 10 South Asian cities), it says that attack on 10 major cities Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 5 each in India and Pakistan Ã¢â‚¬â€œ would result in a combined death toll of 2,862,581, with 1,506,859 severely injured and 3,382,978 slightly injured. On Indian side, death toll is estimated at 1,690,702, while 892,459 and 2,021,106 would be severely and slightly injured respectively. On Pakistan side, a total of 1,171,879 people would die, while, 614,400 and 1,361,872 are to be severely and slightly injured.
In another Scenario (24 Ground Bursts), NRDC calculated the consequences 24 nuclear explosions detonated on the ground Ã¢â‚¬â€œ unlike the Hiroshima airburst Ã¢â‚¬â€œ resulting in significant amounts of lethal radioactive fallout, which is far more severe nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. The report was first appeared in the January 14, 2002, issue of Newsweek (A Face-Off with Nuclear Stakes). Contrary to ground burst, exploding a nuclear bomb above the ground does not produce fallout. For example, can we imagine the consequences of ground burst if the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Little BoyÃ¢â‚¬Â detonated by the US above Hiroshima at an altitude of 1,900 feet could kill 70,000 people in the immediate effect with some 200,000 died up to 1950?
NRDC calculated that 22.1 million people in India and Pakistan would be exposed to lethal radiation doses of 600 roentgen equivalent in man or REM (a large amount of radiation) or more in the first two days of the attack. In addition, about 8 million people would receive a radiation dose of 100 to 600 REM causing severe radiation sickness and potentially death. In all, as many as 30 million people of both countries would be eliminated by nuclear war. Besides fallout, blast and fire would cause substantial destruction within roughly a mile-and-a-half of the bomb craters. However, even after such a devastating annihilation of population, about 99 percent of the population in India and 93 percent of the population in Pakistan would survive the second scenario and their respective military forces would still be intact to continue the conflict. In short, there is nothing to gain from a war, just plenty to lose.
Albeit loss of human life would be immense it would not be large enough to result in extinction of Indo-Pak populations or even prevent continuation of a military conflict. Thus, the consequences, though horrific, are not strong enough to rule out Indo-Pak conflict in future. Had size of the Indo-Pak nuclear arsenals equal to those of the US and Russia, a complete annihilation of entire population of the Indian sub-continent would have been possible. For the Indian side, it is crucial to note that a pre-emptive attack on Pakistani territory would only spell result in the killing of civilians, while militant groups with their intelligence networks, underground shelters and high mobility might escape destruction or even detection. We should not forget that even the might of the US military force has not been able to stamp out or even neutralise the sinister influence of the terrorists in Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas. For the Pakistani side, it would be a foolish act to talk of retaliation, instead of easing tension via cooperation, or persecution of terror culprits.
What then is the alternative? If India wants Pakistan to act against terrorists it should take on serious diplomatic routes, and even closer co-operation with Pakistan, with the US as an important mediating ally. Since Pakistan, too, has been a victim of terrorism, it would surely be benefited from close cooperation with India: elimination of terror attacks on its soil and averting the horrible consequences of a possible nuclear war. What should Pakistan do in the face of strong evidence of the Mumbai carnage being engineered by terrorists of its country that India has presented? Instead of laughing it away, or dismissing it as not Ã¢â‚¬ËœconcreteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Pakistan must realise that contrary to what the Pakistani media is preaching, this is not tantamount to an allegation or bullying that India is levelling on the Pakistani government.
Since the ball is in PakistanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s court, it should initiate adequate action to liquidate terrorist camps and arrest terrorist leaders, as pointed out by India. That is the one big option not only to ease the present crisis, but also to avert the nuclear fallout. Taking India into confidence, Pakistan can make a fresh start by seriously pursuing the path to peace by punishing the culprits of Mumbai carnage. India, on the hand, needs to speak the language of support in order to enhance and fetch cooperation on the issue, rather than issuing Ã¢â‚¬ËœwarningÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœthreatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. And since the US, too, wants India and Pakistan to enhance cooperation to find out the perpetrators of 26 November Mumbai terrorist attacks, and cooperate much more closely on fighting terrorism, there is bigger onus on India and Pakistan to initiate peace to save the civilians from a nuclear holocaust via close cooperation, rather than indulging in usual war hysteria. Only then, both the countries will be able to save the sub-continent from a head-on conflict. Else, we continue to quote Benjamin FranklinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s word: Ã¢â‚¬Å“There never was a good war or bad peaceÃ¢â‚¬Â, but go on to pursue war. Perhaps only a close bilateral cooperation for peace will bring us peace.
Photo: Jinnah Mausoleum, Karachi