Kashmir Explodes

A deadly suicide bombing in the world's most militarized region may trigger a perilous rise in tensions between nuclear-armed rivals.

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Last Thursday, in the contested Indian state of Kashmir, a Pakistani suicide bomber with the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group rammed an explosives-rigged car into a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces, killing 42 in the deadliest attack in the 30-year history of the Kashmir conflict.

In the wake of the attack, Predata security sector signals for both India and Pakistan have shot through the roof to hit their highest levels in years. The signals measure activity on a collection of web pages and social media feeds related to national security infrastructure and issues in each country.

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The magnitude of the digital reaction to the attack points to a dangerous escalation between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. A spate of militant attacks on security personnel in late 2016 caused these signals to spike, but to a lower level than in the wake of last Thursday’s bombing. So far, the bombing has provoked attacks on Kashmiris by Indian mobs, and a gun battle between Indian soldiers and Kashmiri separatist rebels that left 9 dead. And the signals continue to rise.

President Narendra Modi faces a general election in May. A Hindu nationalist who emphasizes national security, Modi has vowed to punish those responsible and is rallying Indians in anger. The strong reaction in the digital realm bodes well for his bid for a second term -- but reflects an increasingly perilous situation for South Asia and potentially the world.