Don't Panic! December 26 2001

Terror tips for the terrified

What's going on with Pakistan and India? Why do they hate each other, and why should we care?

?India and Pakistan are neighbors. Sometimes neighbors just don't get along. India thinks that Pakistan plays its stereo too loud. Pakistan is wondering when the hell India is gonna trim its stupid hedges. I'm oversimplifying, but not by much.

When the British freed India from colonial rule in 1947, the region was divided into India, a majority Hindu nation, and Pakistan, a majority Muslim nation. Almost instantly, a violent dispute erupted over Jammu & Kashmir (usually called simply Kashmir), a majority Muslim state whose leader chose to make it a part of India. Pakistan wanted it and was willing to fight for it, fighting another war for it in 1965 as well. (Despite touching off two wars, Kashmir was not the inspiration for Led Zeppelin's 1975 classic "Kashmir.")

India and Pakistan fought a third major war in 1971 over the Pakistani territory that became the nation of Bangladesh. (Unlike "Kashmir," George Harrison's 1971 hit "Bangla Desh" was, in fact, inspired by that war.)

The latest tit (or tat) in this international game of tit-for-tat came a couple of weeks ago when five Pakistanis attacked India's Parliament, killing nine people before they themselves were killed. India has threatened war against Pakistan if its government doesn't crack down on the terrorist groups that sponsored the attacks. (No word yet on whether funk legends Parliament will be moved to record a song about it.)

Why does the United States care? First, India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons, and we fear that a major war between them could escalate into a nuclear conflict that would kill millions and drop radioactive fallout on the rest of the world. Second, we need the Pakistani government's help to battle al-Qaeda. Pakistan's government is already going against the will of its people to help us — and if a war with India enters the picture, that might be impossible.

Our current plan is to convince Pakistan to share evidence with India and crack down on Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the two Kashmiri separatist groups India deems responsible for the attack. If that happens, I doubt we'll hear much about it here in the U.S., since neither Jaish-e-Mohammed nor Lashkar-e-Taiba would make particularly good song titles.

E-mail your war questions to andisheh@creativeloafing.com.??

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