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Kashmir crisis: Will nuclear-armed Pakistan go to war with India again
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Kashmir crisis: Will nuclear-armed Pakistan go to war with India again

Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with India and suspended trade with its neighbour as the political row over the disputed territory of Kashmir escalates. India's announcement that it will abolish self-rule for Kashmir has been denounced as illegal in Islamabad, with the country's military warning it will "go to any extent" to support Kashmiris. What options does Pakistan have? Why is there pressure on Pakistan to act? Kashmir has poisoned relations between India and Pakistan since Independence. Both claim the territory, which is now divided between them by a fortified line of control. They have fought three wars over it.

The dispute now symbolises the rivalry and mistrust between the neighbours and goes to the ideological heart of Pakistan. Pakistan's leaders have used protection of the Muslim majority residents of Kashmir as a unifying call for decades and championed Kashmiris' right to independence. The unresolved conflict against a far larger neighbour has helped Pakistan foster a heavily militarised state. Moreover, much of Pakistan's water flows through the Himalayan territory, leaving Pakistani leaders concerned their supply could be held hostage. Delhi's sudden decision to revoke autonomy in Indian-administered Kashmir has therefore provoked widespread outcry, with accusations the government was blind-sided and has let Kashmiris down. “Even if the government wants to play it carefully, there's a lot of pressure from the public,” said Umer Karim, a visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. What are the diplomatic options? Pakistan's first move will be to try to occupy the moral high ground and deploy diplomatic resources, predicted Farzana Shaikh, a Pakistan expert at the Chatham House think tank. “We can expect Pakistan to try to mobilise international opinion and show that what India is doing is illegal and in clear breach of UN resolutions,” she said. Imran Khan has said he will use all diplomatic channels "to expose the brutal Indian racist regime".

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