War Is Easier Than Peace for Old Foes in Kashmir

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The nukes in their back pockets give India and Pakistan good reason to avoid an all-out war, but not to actually stop fighting in Kashmir. Clashes continued Wednesday even as both sides agreed on the need for peace talks -- but failed to agree on a date. "This absurd situation has arisen because neither side really wants to talk right now," says TIME New Delhi correspondent Maseeh Rahman. "India believes that thereís nothing to discuss until the Pakistan-backed infiltrators have withdrawn from Indian territory. But thatís not really in Pakistanís interest, because the incursion has served Pakistanís objective of putting the Kashmir issue back in the international spotlight." India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the past five decades over the disputed region, and Islamabad wants the issue mediated by the United Nations.

The latest clashes began last week when Indian troops discovered that some of their mountaintop positions had been occupied by an estimated 600 heavily armed guerrillas who had crossed over from the Pakistani side. "Pakistan outsmarted India this time by putting Kashmir back in the spotlight and creating a really uncomfortable situation for New Delhi," says Rahman. "Indiaís government is now under pressure to clear its territory of intruders, which could cost many lives and take many months." Pakistan, not surprisingly, is in no hurry to help India out of its dilemma. The good news, though, is that although theyíre firing everything from heavy artillery to surface-to-air missiles at each other -- and trading accusations of atrocities -- both sides insist they donít want war.