Why the India-Pakistan Crisis Isn’t Likely to Turn Nuclear

History Shows Escalation Isn’t Inevitable

A rally in support of the Pakistan Armed Force, Peshawar, Pakistan, March 2019. Fayaz Aziz / REUTERS

In May 1999, an Indian military patrol stumbled on several groups of Pakistani soldiers who had set up posts in Kargil, in the Indian-controlled section of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. Within weeks, India and Pakistan plunged into in their fourth war since 1947. The region’s mountainous terrain made land operations difficult, but throughout the fighting the Indian military exercised a surprising degree of restraint. Indian pilots scrupulously refrained from crossing or firing over the line of control, the de facto border in Jammu and Kashmir, despite coming under punishing fire from the Pakistani side. The Kargil War, as the conflict became known, ended two months after fighting broke out, when the Indian military recaptured the territory it had originally controlled.

Analysts generally point to Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons the previous year as the cause of India’s restraint. Indian policymakers likely feared that crossing the line

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