ISLAMABAD, Pakistan--Pakistan's foreign minister said on Thursday that the dispute with India over Kashmir could trigger an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war "at any time." "Occupied Kashmir today constitutes the world's only flash point, the major flash point," Gohar Ayub Khan told Reuters Television in an interview. He said that unlike the Cold War in Europe, the dispute over Kashmir involved the right of its people to determine their own future and for this reason it was "an open wound."
"With both India and Pakistan last month acquiring nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems, this conflict can erupt any time into a nuclear conflict for the mere fact that in Europe and the former Soviet Union there was no territorial dispute or call for the right of self-determination.
"The difference between (Western) Europe and the Soviet Union was one of ideology and the systems. That's why nuclear weapons were a means of not having a conflict," he said. "But between India and Pakistan it is further heightened by the mere fact that nerves are raw on both sides, tension can any time erupt and then the distance between India and Pakistan is hardly there," he said.
Khan said India could fire its Prithvi missiles at Pakistan and they could hit targets within four minutes of launch. "And who on earth will determine whether that missile is tipped with a conventional or nuclear warhead?" he said. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned on Wednesday the risk of "disaster is high" in South Asia after the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests.
Neither country "can be confident it will have early warning of what the other will do. And the risk of misinformation leading to miscalculation leading to disaster is high," she said in a speech on U.S. arms control policy to the Henry L. Stimson Center, which promotes nonproliferation. Her comments seemed to go beyond previous statements of alarm over the situation created by the testing.
In his interview with Reuters Television, Khan said: "The real flash point in the world, as Pakistan has always been saying, is Kashmir where 600,000 Indian occupation forces are there carrying out human rights violations, gang rapes, burning villages, extra-judicial killings and not allowing the people to exercise the right of self determination."
He said both countries would be severely damaged in any nuclear conflict but asserted that India would come off worst. "The fourth war will be very costly for India, very costly, because of the systems that Pakistan has. "Pakistan might be able to absorb the damage but India will never be able to. The end result will be that both of us will be badly savaged, badly mauled, but in that process India will go down very badly," he said.
Khan said that after both countries conducted nuclear tests last month "the power factor or regional factor has shifted from India to Pakistan... Today Pakistan is the nuclear power in the region, not India," he said. He said 50 years of high-level talks had failed to break the deadlock over Kashmir, one third of which is controlled by Pakistan and the rest by India.
Khan said he hoped talks in Sri Lanka next month between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers would lay the foundations for real negotiations on the dispute, the cause of two of the three wars between the two neighbors.
But he called for "assistance" from Japan and the United States -- mediation that India has already rejected -- "so that we are not mired in these talks as we have been in the past, not talks for talks' sake and propaganda, but resolution." "If we want to make progress we want to have third party mediation to assist us," he said. Khan said the result of previous talks had been "nothing. We get back to square one."
"We start off with a lot of propaganda activity in both the countries and after three or four days there is a lot of backslapping and congratulating each other but nowhere, no progress."
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