India, finally getting some guest privileges in the First World — and angling for full memership — has too much to lose. A war could easily set them back, politically and economically, a decade or three or four. They’re too close to grabbing the brass ring to jump off the merry-go-round.
On the other side of the Indus, Pakistan has less (but more) to lose. Sure, a war could set Islamabad back thirty years — but in 2002, there’s not much difference between 1862 and 1832. And that’s about as advanced as Pakistan’s economy gets. Politically, they’re even further behind.
So why shouldn’t they risk war? Because one more losing war, and Pakistan is finished as a nation-state. Hell, Islamabad doesn’t rule the entire country, even today, and they never have.
One nuke, maybe two, and Pakistan dissolves into a fueding collection of tribes and warlords the likes of which we haven’t seen since, um, their neighbor to the north.
One chance in five. That’s tonight’s bar bet. Any takers?