In the summer of 1998, I had a front-row seat to the border war between India and Pakistan. Following nuclear-weapons tests by both countries, the duelling Armies shelled each other for weeks along the disputed Himalayan frontier, called the Line of Control. I was staying in a shabby hotel named the Sangam, in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, not far from the border. The Sangam—its name means “place where rivers meet”—sits near the confluence of the Neelum and Jhelum Rivers. For days, I ate dinner on the terrace out back and watched the artillery fire. The raging waters of the Neelum were so cold that I had to wear a sweater. The exploding shells lit up the sky with long, yellow streaks.
The world watched with trepidation as the two nuclear-armed countries blasted away at each other. For a time, it seemed that a wider war was entirely possible—that things would escalate, either by accident or design.