We all hope that something like the mock despatch below, describing a nuclear war, is never written. But given the hysteria evident in the subcontinent, it seems that Doctor Strangelove still lives, and that, against all sanity, the nuclear option is actually being considered.
World Press Report. Washington, March 10, 2019, 4.30 pm, Universal Time.
The world was stunned today as nuclear devastation fell on the subcontinent. Enormous areas of Mumbai, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Delhi were reduced to radioactive rubble in the early hours of this morning. Many other cities have been destroyed, mainly, it seems, those close to major military bases, by weapons thought to have had a yield of about 40 kilotons (the Hiroshima bomb was less than half that). An Indian strike against Karachi failed, when nuclear-armed Su-30 aircraft had to take evasive action and released their bombs about fifty kilometres east of Pakistan’s largest city — but then prevailing winds drove massive clouds of radioactive sand across the entire urban area and far along the coastline.
Ground zero for Pakistan’s nuclear missiles aimed at New Delhi appeared to be symbolic: India Gate. The city’s business area, centred round Connaught Place, no longer exists, and destruction was total in the diplomatic enclave and north to Civil Lines, perhaps further. It is estimated that a million people have died or are dying in Delhi, about the same number as in Lahore, Amritsar, Mumbai and Rawalpindi. Almost the entire population of Islamabad, where a missile landed, ironically, close to Zero Point, has vanished.
The hearts of Pakistan and India have been laid waste.
There are smoking, contaminated, corpse-ridden ruins for hundreds of square miles. Millions of people have disappeared — evaporated into the filthy air — but there are countless more lingering, disgusting, hellish deaths yet to come from the effects of blast and radiation. Water supplies and crops have been poisoned. Many millions not directly affected by the explosions will soon die, and in particularly horrible ways.
The governments of both countries remain functioning in their respective emergency centres in Chennai and Quetta, and their leaders have said they will fight on. But they, too, will die, with all their ministers and advisers, when the winds and rains spread radioactive death through the region.
The countries cannot fight on, or even survive as nations. Countless millions of refugees are flooding out of cities all over the sub- continent. Every main route is verge-to-verge with snail-paced vehicles carrying terrified and hysterical people. The Rawalpindi-Peshawar highway, in a bizarre development, has seen countless thousands of refugees from both cities fleeing east and west and meeting at Nowshera where there is catastrophic panic and confusion. To the west, the Khyber Pass is choked. Similar scenes are evident in satellite pictures of the Mumbai-Pune road and at Hapur, half-way between Delhi and Moradabad.
Nowhere on any escape routes are there hygiene or medical facilities that can cope with the exodus. Once refugees have exhausted their meagre supplies of food and water there will be hunger, looting, disease, violence and hideous death on a colossal scale.
Tension heightened in the subcontinent after clashes along Kashmir’s Line of Control, and both sides prepared for war. Following a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir on February 14, which killed 43 para-military soldiers, India mounted an airstrike on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control dividing that beautiful but contested region. An Indian air force aircraft was shot down, and social media in India became hysterical.
Both sides sent reinforcements to the border and moved missiles and warheads to emergency deployment positions. This activity was detected by foreign intelligence services and even by commercial satellites, but international concern had no effect.
In a tragic series of actions, both nations moved towards nuclear catastrophe. Extreme nationalists, who abound in both countries, took to the streets and demanded “punitive action” which resulted in several more tit-for-tat operations; then all-out war began.
Update, 5.15 pm International Time: The situation in the region is worsening minute by minute.
Satellite pictures show vast clouds of nuclear dust being blown in every direction. There have been torrential rains, carrying radioactive particles. Nuclear grime is dropping on the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains from where most water in the subcontinent originates, and all northern rivers will be terminally contaminated. Hot, swirling, nuclear-polluted sandstorms in the deserts of Rajasthan, Sindh and Balochistan have been driven as far as Iran, in the west. Reports from Colombo, Rangoon, Kathmandu and Kabul indicate rapidly increasing levels of radiation. The 20,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan are being evacuated, necessitating the world’s fastest ever airlift. Iran has closed its borders, and the roads from Afghanistan to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are choked.
The UN Security Council is sitting in emergency session, but it is a hand-wringing colloquy rather than a meeting that could alleviate the staggering disaster. Some eighty nuclear weapons have caused devastation on a scale not seen since the end of the dinosaurs. All the world can do is wait until nature takes its course, over the centuries.
The subcontinent is ceasing to exist, and no help will come from elsewhere, as even the most saintly of aid agencies will not hazard the lives of its workers. No government could order its troops into nuclear devastation to give assistance, no matter how desperate the situation. Survivors in India and Pakistan will see repulsive, terrifying and hideous scenes never before witnessed in the world — but there will be no outside eye to observe them, other than the lenses of dispassionate satellite cameras hundreds of miles above the earth that will record forever the desolation and carnage that are the result of pride, miscalculation — and nuclear weapons. — End of World Press Report.
Let us earnestly hope that such a despatch will never appear. The US, Russia and China must exert all possible pressure on both countries to back off. Then the matter of the disputed territory of Kashmir must return to consideration of the UN Security Council, on whose books it has lain for so many years.