Battleground Kashmir: Imagining a Nuclear War between India and Pakistan


By: Anmol Gupta

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Four wars had already been fought between India and Pakistan but the territory of Kashmir had still remained with India. The Wars fought in 1948, 1965 and 1999 followed a similar initial course wherein Pakistani Army regulars disguised as irregular local militias or resistance forces infiltrated into the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the stated aim of getting the state liberated. All these plans of the Pakistan Army had relied heavily on a popular uprising in the Valley for their success.

Born into a family of highly decorated soldiers, General Raheel Sharif had assumed charge of the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan in 2013 and had seized the control of the Pakistan Government in 2017 after overthrowing the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. General Raheel Sharif was nine years old at the time of the 1965 war in which his uncle (mother’s brother) Raja Aziz Bhatti had laid down his life and was awarded a Nishan-e-Haider, Pakistan’s highest Millitary Gallantry Award. Incidentally, his elder brother Major Shabbir Sharif also died in the 1971 Indo-Pak war and had too been awarded with a Nishan-e-Haider. For Sharif (it seemed) the liberation of Kashmir was not only a dream but also an issue of Family Honour. Deeply influenced by the stories of Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam, Sharif was to soon launch his own Kashmir adventure.

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It was the year 2021, following years of relative calm since the protests of 2016, the entire Kashmir valley had been engulfed by massive clamour for ‘Azaadi’. Just as the protests of 2016 had witnessed an increase in intensity in comparison to the protests of 2010, the protests of 2021 in the valley had assumed unforeseen proportions. Worse still the violence had even spread to the Districts of Doda, Kishtwar, Poonch and Rajauri in the otherwise peaceful Jammu region. This opportunity was a godsend for General Raheel Sharif. Ever since he had assumed control of Pakistan, Sharif had been waiting to launch his own version of Operation Gibraltar but with the confidence of securing different results and the ‘Azaadi’ of Kashmir.

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Any act of aggression or a war declared by Pakistan would have meant serious repercussions for the country. General Sharif knew very well that after the war, Pakistan would be globally isolated and there would be hardships for the average Pakistani but for Sharif these sacrifices were to be made if Kashmir was ever to be integrated with Pakistan. And, thus to wrest Kashmir from India, was launched ‘Operation Saladin’ named after the legendary twelfth century Islamic Caliphate Commander Saladin who had wrested the control of ‘Palestine’ and ‘Jerusalem’ from the Crusaders. ‘Operation Saladin’ was meant to be an all out two day tactical Nuclear war restricted to the Indian controlled area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir followed by a unilateral ceasefire by Pakistan. Assault weapons in large numbers had been smuggled into the Kashmir valley for the past many years and scores of Pakistani army regulars had already infiltrated into the valley with the aim of establishing hundreds of Sleeper Cells all across the land and to lead armed mobs on the day of the attack across the valley. The success of this tactical nuclear war was dependent on swiftness of action and the uprising of people across the valley.

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July 10, 2021 will always go down as a black day in the History of the world. USA had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to quickly end the World War II, but on this day Pakistan dropped Nuclear Bombs on the cities of Kathua, Jammu and Udhampur resulting in deaths of over 4,00,000 people and injuring lakhs of others to start a Nuclear war with India. The targets for dropping nuclear bombs had been chosen to block Indian access to the Kashmir Valley. Kathua fell on the most used and the most convenient route connecting the rest of India with J&K. Jammu, the largest city in the Jammu province, provided the best connectivity within the state connecting the rest of India not only with the valley but also with Poonch (Thus, severing the Mughal Road link with Srinagar). The city was also an important transit base for the Indian army. Udhampur a town on the Jammu-Srinagar highway also housed the headquarters of the Northern Command. Thus, by striking on these three cities, Pakistan not only severed the land and rail link between India and the valley but also struck a deadly blow to fighting capabilities of the army. Also, with Pakistan targeting the integration of the Kashmir and the Chenab Valley with itself, little mercy was shown to the remaining hindu dominated areas of the state.

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Simultaneously, bombing of the Jawahar Tunnel area, Awantipora and Pathankot Air Force Stations and other army bases was carried out. The Pakistani Infantry divisions struck with intensity at Uri, Gurez, Kupwara, Poonch, Naushera and Akhnoor. Armed Mobs attacked army positions across the valley and pitched battles were being fought across hundreds of locations. It seemed that General Shareef had indeed been successful in catching the Indian state unawares. However, the unprecedented protests in Kashmir, the troops build up by Pakistan along the LOC and the international border combined with the intelligence inputs had ensured that the Indian apparatus was ready for a swift response. Also, in comparison to 1965 and 1971, the Indian Army troop presence and preparedness in J&K was much greater owing to the insurgency which had started in 1990.

The Narendra Modi lead Indian Government were found in an unenviable position. It had to restore connectivity with J&K, provide relief in areas struck by nuclear bombs, save Kashmir from annexation and to mount a strong counter attack. The top political administration of the country along with the Chiefs of defence forces and other key decision makers were first moved to an undisclosed nuclear bomb proof facility. The Nuclear Missile Defence System and the Anti Ballistic Missile Air Defence System were mounted across large cities and population centers. Taking a leaf out of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s book and ignoring international calls for restraint, India replicated its 1965 response and missiles carrying Nuclear bombs targeted 13 Pakistani Cities spread across 4 days with Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi Faisalabad, Sialkot, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Multan, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur, Sargodha and Sheikhupura being the targets. The Indian Rafale and Sukhoi jets simultaneously bombarded Pakistani Nuclear facilities and air force bases. The infantry brigades opened new fronts along the Punjab and Rajasthan borders while the Navy prepared for attacking the Karachi and the Gwadar ports. The second tranche of 4 nuclear bombs fired by Pakistan on Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Chandigarh were successfully blocked by the Missile Defence System and the damage was contained. Only Bikaner was targeted successfully by Pakistan in the absence of any defence system.

Pakistan Nuclear Program

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The several lakh strong Indian army in Kashmir in the face of these attacks was instructed to not show any mercy towards the armed mobs of civilians as this was a war situation. The Kashmiris unaccustomed to tough action against their previous stone throwing activities were no challenge for the disciplined Indian army and the uprising that Raheel Sharif had counted on was quelled and brought under control. In the face of adversity a Dogra Resistance Force was organized across the rural and semi urban belts of the Jammu region. Led by thousands of ex-servicemen, the force lent support to the Indian army to face the infantry attacks and to provide relief across areas hit by the Nuclear weapons. The damage in Jammu City would have been greater but for the faulty fission reaction in the bomb aimed at the city. Also, owing to the hilly topography of Udhampur, the damage was only partial at the Northern Command Headquarters of the Army. By the end of that fateful day of July 10, 2021, General Sharif would have also realized that ‘Operation Salahdin’ had turned out to be a disaster and things would only become worse for him and Pakistan afterwards.

Swiftly declaring Pakistan a Terrorist state for using Nuclear Weapons without any provocation, NATO announced support for India and started the bombing of Pakistan till the current administration lead by General Raheel Sharif surrendered and the reigns of Pakistan were handed to a UN Lead administration. Given its action, even China refused any support to its erstwhile ally and its all weather friend, Pakistan. The unconditional surrender of Pakistan to India and the NATO forces was arranged on July 17, 2021 with the capture of Raheel Sharif from the bunkers in Murree, Pakistan. And, it was the end of Pakistan as the world knew it prior to July 10, 2021. The region comprising the erstwhile state of Pakistan and still under UN administration was divided into 5 independent entities Pakistan (areas of erstwhile Punjab state of Pakistan except Southern Punjab), Saraiki (erstwhile Southern Punjab), Sindh, Pakhtunwa and Baluchistan and just as Japan was disarmed after World War II, the entire area remains disarmed. General Sharif could not have been more wrong in his assessment of the outcome of his tactical nuclear war with India. One can hope that these newly created countries will continue to progress as they have done under the UN administration, once elections are conducted in 2028.

The senseless aggression of the erstwhile state of Pakistan in 2021 was a lesson for the entire mankind on the futility of Nuclear Wars. While Kashmir still remains an integral part of India (with the Article 370 abolished), the war resulted in complete annihilation of Pakistan. If the erstwhile Republic of Pakistan had instead pursued an agenda of harmony and development, the present would have been much different for the country and its people. One can only hope that Mankind draws a lesson from the happenings of 2021 and there is no use of the atomic bomb anytime in the future.

The writer is a MBA in Finance and has recently shifted base to Jammu after working in various corporates for 8 years

U4UVoice does not endorse the opinion reflected in this article neither does the article necessarily reflect U4UVoice policy.