1989-1997: The Kashmiri Rebellion

Did India and Pakistan nearly fight a nuclear war in 1990? In a provocative 1993 article, Seymour M. Hersh claims that they did . . . Hersh quotes Richard J. Kerr, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1990, as saying: "It was the most dangerous nuclear situation we have ever faced since I've been in the U.S. government. It may be as close as we've come to a nuclear exchange. It was far more frightening than the Cuban missile crisis."

International Security, 1995

The region was relatively stable until 1989, when the Kashmiri independence movement turned militant. The militants have been called "freedom fighters," "rebels," "separatists," "extremists," and "terrorists" depending on the speaker's politics. Whatever the label, they promote the independence of Kashmir from India through violent means typically associated with guerrilla groups.

In July 1989, the militant Kashmiri uprising exploded bombs at three sites in the capital of Srinagar. After sporadic fighting in the months after, a prominent Indian's daughter was kidnapped in December and released when five pro-independence militants were freed from Indian jails.

Between 1989 and the middle of 1999, when a dangerous crisis emerged, the separatist insurgency claimed the lives of between 25,000 and 60,000 people. The most common attacks were bombs, grenades, land mines and shootings, targeting passenger buses, passenger trains, Indian police, Indian military and Hindu minorities, as well as retaliation by Indian police and military on the Muslim population.

The Indian government claims that the Pakistanis provide financial and military support to the rebels. Pakistan admits only to providing moral and diplomatic support. It is obvious that the rebels are supplied beyond their own capabilities.

Pakistan accuses India of providing support for Indian nationals who have committed similar terrorist bombings of Pakistani buses and trains. It is a disturbing pattern that India and Pakistan often are engaged in a tit-for-tat retaliation, even for practices condemned internationally.

Border clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops (exchanges of gunfire and artillery) became common as the insurgency progressed. In 1995 alone, there were nearly 2,000 exchanges of fire across the Line of Control.

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