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Editorial: Nuclear-armed India, Pakistan should show restraint over military tensions

India and Pakistan, both of which possess nuclear weapons, should exercise self-restraint to prevent their ongoing military tensions from escalating any further and avert a worst-case scenario.

Military tensions between the two countries heightened in mid-February when Islamic radicals based in Pakistan attacked Indian security forces in Kashmir, which is claimed by both countries. Tensions have since developed into a tit for tat, with both countries conducting airstrikes on each other and shooting down the other's jets.

There has been a territorial dispute over Kashmir since the partition of India in 1947 that led to the independence of Pakistan. The first Indo-Pakistani War broke out in 1947 over Kashmir. The area also became a battlefield in the second and third wars between the two countries in 1965 and 1971, respectively. Over the past several years, exchanges of gunfire have intermittently occurred. However, the current situation in which both countries' military aircraft are mobilized is quite rare and extremely dangerous.

India and Pakistan obviously have reasons for not being able to compromise with each other. The Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which reportedly does not have a good chance of winning a general election in April and May, does not want to come under fire from the public for being weak toward Pakistan.

The Pakistani administration of Prime Minister Imran Khan is close to the military and cannot ignore hard-line opinions within the armed forces. Only about six months have passed since the inauguration of the Khan government and the administration must show consideration to anti-India public opinion.

Obviously, however, neither side desires a head-on confrontation. It is extremely risky to intensify their clash of egos in order to satisfy public opinion and eventually heighten military tensions.

Both countries have competed in developing nuclear arms under the name of "deterrence" measures. In particular, it is well known that Pakistan has put all-out efforts into the development of tactical missiles in a bid to counter possible cross-border attacks by India.

If the conflict evolves into a hopeless mess, it could trigger an accidental fatal clash. It cannot be completely ruled out that the conflict could lead to a nuclear attack in retaliation for such moves.

Pakistani authorities' recent release of an Indian pilot they had detained could help ease tensions. However, there is no predicting how the conflict and clashes between the two countries will develop.

The international community should strengthen its unity to urge India and Pakistan to exercise self-restraint. The United States and China have already encouraged the two countries to hold dialogue and prevent the situation from worsening. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is poised to mediate between the two countries. The Japanese government should also get involved in the process toward settling the dispute.

Any conflict that forces other countries to get ready for a worst-case scenario must be stopped as early as possible.

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