Key Point: Unfortunately, the recent escalation between India and Pakistan is no fluke, but part of a long-simmering pattern likely to continue escalating unless New Delhi and Islamabad work together to change the nature of their relationship.
Between February 26 and 27 in 2019, Indian and Pakistani warplanes launched strikes on each other’s territory and engaged in aerial combat for the first time since 1971. Pakistan ominously hinted it was convening its National Command Authority, the institution which can authorize a nuclear strike.
However, those weapons are inferior in number and yield to the thousands of nuclear weapons possessed by Russia and the United States, which include megaton-class weapons that can wipe out a metropolis in a single blast.
Some commenters have callously suggested that means a “limited regional nuclear war” would remain an Indian and Pakistani problem. People find it difficult to assess the risk of rare but catastrophic events; after all, a full-scale nuclear war has never occurred before, though it has come close to happening.
Such assessments are not only shockingly callous but shortsighted. In fact, several studies have modeled the global impact of a “limited” ten-day nuclear war in which India and Pakistan each exchange fifty 15-kiloton nuclear bombs equivalent in yield to the Little Boy uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Their findings concluded that spillover would in no way be “limited,” directly impacting people across the globe that would struggle to locate Kashmir on a map.