While the attention of the major powers was on the Balkans, a potentially more dangerous conflict resurfaced thousands of miles away on the Indian subcontinent. There are a number of similarities between these two wars that have their origins in ethnic rivalries that go back centuries. Both are what might be termed “post-colonial ethnic conflicts.”
The proliferation of wars in the Balkans has happened because of the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Yugoslavia itself was never a part of the Soviet Warsaw Pact alliance of eastern European communist nations, but the fall of communism throughout the region released long suppressed nationalist sentiments in the area that soon spread to Yugoslavia.
Precisely because it had been a more liberal and less centralized state, Yugoslavia was easier to divide. Added factors were the former divisions throughout the nation between regions that had historically been a part of the Catholic Hapsburg Austrian Empire and the Muslim Turkish Ottoman Empire right up until the early years of the 20th century. A further complication was the outside support of sympathetic nations in Europe-Russia supporting the Orthodox Serbs and Germany quick to recognize the independence of the Catholic Croatians and Slovenians.
Contrast India and Pakistan. Predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan (together with what is now Bangladesh) were one country until 1947, administered by a British viceroy appointed from London. The British Empire had ruled the subcontinent for over 200 years, often having to police ethnic tensions and doing so effectively enough that few predicted the post-independence conflicts that have arisen. Ironically the descendants of those same British rulers are now having to police ethnic conflicts nearer home in the Balkans and even at home in Northern Ireland.
Three Terrible Wars
It wasn’t until after World War II that the British decided to pull out of India, granting independence to its more than 320 million subject peoples. Muslims, concentrated mostly in the northwest of the subcontinent, were terrified at the prospect of being ruled by Hindus and quickly demanded independence of their own.
The weeks leading up to the partition of the nation saw possibly millions killed in inter-ethnic rioting and mass killing. Independence itself was soon followed by the first war between the two nations.
A second war followed in 1965. A third erupted only six years later when India helped East Pakistan separate from West Pakistan and form the new nation of Bangladesh, then the poorest country in the world.
Between wars there has been constant simmering tension with occasional skirmishes.
As with other post-colonial conflicts, the major powers soon got themselves involved, with India receiving support from the Soviet Union and Pakistan from the United States and later China.
Added to this political cauldron was Pakistan’s relations with other Muslim nations and its comparative technological advancement. This soon led to talk of an “Islamic bomb,” possibly sponsored by Libya, Iran or Iraq. Frequent rumors surfaced of nuclear research being conducted in the area.
Last year Pakistan tested a nuclear device. India, which already possessed nuclear capability, followed a few days later. The exclusive international nuclear weapons club increased its members from five to seven (undoubtedly others also secretly have the bomb, most notably Israel and South Africa). In a few days the world had become much more dangerous.
The conflict widened with increased tension between India and China. Pakistan supported anti-Soviet forces during Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 through the ’80s. This was a major contributory factor in the collapse of the communist regime in Moscow. It has been said that the two men who did most to bring about the fall of communism were Pakistan’s then ruling General Zia and the Polish Pope John Paul II.
Nuclear War Possible?
The latest conflict between India and Pakistan is over the disputed territory of Kashmir. The two countries have long fought over Kashmir. Now that they are both nuclear powers, the need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict is much greater. The potential of a nuclear war in this region is greater than it is anywhere else on earth at this time.
The Kashmir dispute goes back to the hurried push for independence over 50 years ago. The then maharajah of Kashmir, Sir Hari Singh, was a Hindu, but 91 percent of the people in the region were Muslim.
In the months preceding independence, as it became clear that the British really were about to leave, the maharajah did nothing to prepare for the inevitable. When independence came in August of that year, the future of Kashmir had not been decided. Tension mounted, the maharajah fled, and in the confusion India took control of most of the territory. An attempt by the British to rectify the oversight of 1947 during the queen’s visit to the two countries celebrating 50 years of independence was not appreciated by either side. Suggestions of a referendum have also been rejected by the Indian government.
Complicating events is political instability in both India and Pakistan and the seemingly never-ending conflict in Afghanistan. The immediate cause of the latest problem was Pakistani-backed Islamic forces in Afghanistan that had seized mountainous territory close to the disputed border area with some loss of civilian lives. Additionally, Pakistani troops boldly crossed the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan since 1972.
Ethnic Conflicts Prophesied
The Balkans and the Indian subcontinent are not the only areas of the world that are going through what might be called “post-colonial stress syndrome.” The Middle East is another conflicted area. The division of Palestine less than one year after India’s partition has still not been resolved.
Ethnic conflicts throughout Africa are another example, as new nations are frequently torn apart by ancient divisions that were suppressed by the brief period of colonial domination.
Perhaps this is why Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:6 Matthew 24:6And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
American King James Version×about “wars and rumors of wars” as a sign of His “coming and of the end of the age” (verse 3). There have always been wars, but at no time in human history have there been so many conflicts and potential conflicts as in today’s world. The proliferation of nations in the post-World War II, post-colonial world, has complicated our world and increased conflict on every continent. Most of the conflicts are along ethnic lines. Interestingly, the Greek word for “nation” (in verse 7) is ethnos , showing that these increased conflicts would be largely ethnic-based wars.
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:7 Matthew 24:7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
American King James Version×). Watch out for more ethnic conflict as prophesied by Jesus Christ on the Mount of Olives nearly 2,000 years ago. WNP