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1990 Indo-Pakistan Crisis

The two South Asian neighbors were at the brink of war in the spring of 1990 because of growing tensions over Kashmir because of Pakistani ISI support of militants fighting in Indian controlled Kashmir.

India moved more troops into the region to prevent cross-border infiltration from Pakistan and to threaten hot pursuit or raids on training camps but not to launch concerted, major operations against Pakistan. In retrospect it was unlikely that Pakistan would have used nukes, but the success of the nuclear bluff reinforced leadership's belief in the value of nuclear weapons both as a deterrent and as a tool of diplomatic bargaining.

Despite a civilian government being in power in Pakistan, the military continued to retain control over its nuclear programme, including the use of nuclear diplomacy. Under Zia, Pakistan had adopted a strategy of undermining Indian security through a war by proxy in Jammu and Kashmir. By 1990, the Kashmir insurgency was at its peak as perceived by Pakistan, and India-Pakistan relations had deteriorated. On 13 March 1990, Benazir Bhutto travelled to Pakistan controlled Kashmir and promised a "thousand-year war" to support the militants.

It was under these circumstances that Pakistan implicitly threatened to use nuclear weapons if India intervened militarily, across the Line of Control (LoC) and, therefore, persuaded the United States to act as an intermediary.8 The chronic conventional arms firing across the LoC in Kashmir increased manifold.

In light of the growing risks of war between the two states and the likelihood that nuclear weapons might be used, the first Bush administration, under the Pressler amendment, imposed economic, military sanctions against Pakistan.




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