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Keep Calm - Taking world events in stride.

Ritual Aggression: India and Pakistan's missile tests, following peace talks (+video)

Pakistan and India test ballistic missiles to demonstrate military might. But these tests have become separate from politics, in which both countries appear to be developing closer ties.

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After India conducted underground nuclear tests in May 1998, and Pakistan followed up with its own nuclear tests later that same month, relations between the two rival countries became distinctly frosty. Attempts to patch up relations were made, such as at a meeting of Pakistan’s then-President Pervez Musharraf and India’s then-Prime Minister Atul Behari Vajpayee in Agra in July 2001, but those talks collapsed in acrimony.

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India and Pakistan certainly have reasons to be annoyed with each other. They both claim to be the rightful owners of the Himalayan mountain region called Kashmir, but neither has the military capability or stomach to take away the portion of Kashmir occupied by the other. As a Muslim majority region, Kashmir should have been handed over to Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947, the Pakistani government reasons, but India counters that the princely leader of that region decided to opt for Indian rule instead.

Wars have been fought over this rocky turf, but in recent years, Pakistan has turned to a set of extremist militant groups, such as Lashkar-e Taiba, to act as its proxies. Initially, these Pakistani based terror groups focused on Kashmir, but in Nov. 2008, they struck India’s financial capital of Mumbai, killing more than 100. Pakistan denied any link to the Mumbai attack, but the surviving member of the attack team admitted being a member of Lashkar-e Taiba, and intercepted phone calls from the attack group were made to contacts in Pakistan, where Lashkar-e Taiba operates openly.

With these elements still in play – disputes over Kashmir, use of terrorist proxies – it’s striking that India treats Pakistan in such a light manner. Perhaps the main reason has to do with economics. India’s fast-growing economy has left its rival in the dust, allowing India to focus on a bigger rival, China. And if India believes that the powerful US military has its back – actively hunting extremists in the mountains of Afghanistan at least until 2014 – then perhaps it can rest assured that Pakistan won’t be able to use extremist proxies – or non-state actors, as Pakistan calls them – for much longer.

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