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The low-level tensions that are a feature of India-Pakistan relations exploded last month after Kashmiri extremists launched a terrorist attack in India and New Delhi followed with the inevitable acts of retaliation. A shrewd move by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan may have defused the crisis, but that de-escalation will only prove to be temporary as long as the larger issue — the disputed status of Kashmir — persists. This is an unacceptable state of affairs for two nuclear-armed states that neighbor each other.

New Delhi and Islamabad have fought over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region that is part of India but claimed by Pakistan, since the two states won their independence in 1947. The two countries have gone to war three times over the territory. When their militaries are not engaged in hostilities, a low-level conflict takes place, marked by terrorist attacks or the exchange of mortar fire across the Line of Control, the 900 km unofficial border that separates India and Pakistan. It is estimated that nearly 90 civilians were killed in the two countries in cross-border fire last year alone. New Delhi — and many other countries — charges Islamabad with supporting Kashmiri separatists as a way of waging war “by other means” and maintaining plausible deniability. The Pakistani government denies the accusation.

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