Nuclear sword over Kashmir Danger persists: Big Five failed to halt world's most troublesome military confrontation.

June 11, 1998

FOREIGN MINISTERS of the five major nuclear powers notably failed at their emergency meeting last week in Geneva to put reins on the dangerous escalation of military rivalry between India and Pakistan.

Their statement demanded that the two halt nuclear tests and resolve their differences, which they have refused to do for a half-century.

The Big Five, which are also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, pointedly refused to admit the upstarts to their club -- the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, signed by 186 countries. The treaty restricts nuclear weapons to the five, which now flies in the face of reality.

The ministers urged India and Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the United States has signed but not ratified and which both flouted when they conducted underground tests.

India and Pakistan have hundreds of thousands of troops poised to fight in divided Kashmir. China, like Pakistan, holds part of what India considers its own. China has fought one war with India over Kashmir, while Pakistan has fought three. Thus, China is hardly giving the Big Five credibility as an honest broker.

The Soviet Union and United States so frightened themselves with nuclear rivalry that they set up a hot line to prevent war by accident. India and Pakistan have no such arrangement.

The Big Five need a permanent body to keep working on the problem, a group that can offer safety measures to both new nuclear powers. The pressure must be kept up to allow the people of Kashmir to decide their own identity and fate, just as the people of Northern Ireland are being invited to do.

India is larger and stronger than Pakistan, which is geographically vulnerable. That has not changed, even if both have nuclear weapons.

Mutual destruction will not settle the Kashmir dispute. The rest of the world must remain constructively engaged with India and Pakistan to try to reduce the fearful risks they have created.

Pub date: 6/10/98

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