The India-Pakistan relationship, since the creation of both the nations in 1947 has been rocky, where the nations have been involved in four wars.
Kashmir has been the bedrock issue between both the nations and has been an unresolved boundary dispute.
Terrorism, particularly targeting India which is bred on Pakistani soil is yet another major issue which has mired the relationship.
Despite many positive initiatives taken, the India-Pakistan relationship in recent times has reached an all time low with some sore issues sticking out. Here we are analysing the core issues in the India-Pakistan relationship.
Present Context and the Issues in India-Pakistan Relationship
- With the regime change in India, there was a perception that a hard line and staunch policy towards Pakistan would be followed. However, the current Prime Minister (PM) of India put forward the idea of ‘Neighborhood First’, which was particularly aimed at improving relationships within the Indian Subcontinent.
- There were initiatives taken by the government, for example, inviting the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the swearing in ceremony of the new PM of India, an unscheduled visit to Lahore by the Indian PM to the residence of the PM of Pakistan, which showed some signs of a positive development.
- However, with the attack on the Indian Air Force Base in 2016 (Pathankot) January, just a few days after Indian PM visited the Pakistani counterpart, events thereafter haven’t been really encouraging. There has been a complete stoppage of talks at all levels in between the nations. Speculations, however, run that back channel talks exist.
- With rising discontent and a volatile situation once again in Kashmir from mid-2016, India has accused Pakistan of adding fuel to the unrest and glorifying terrorists by declaring them, martyrs.
- Terrorist attacks on security forces since have increased and the attack on the Uri Army base camp in September 2016, where 19 Indian soldiers were killed, was also carried by an organization, which has its roots in Pakistan. (Lashkar-e-Toiba, also responsible for 26/11 attacks)
- The case of Kulbushan Jadhav, a retired Indian Naval officer arrested nears the Iran-Pakistan border in Baluchistan region by the Pakistani establishment and accused of espionage by Pakistan.
Changing Political Scenario in Pakistan
- For quite a while, the Panama Papers issue was being raked up in Pakistan and the PM Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan was alleged to have received unaccounted money from abroad. The Supreme Court of Pakistan recently disqualified the PM from office, making him the second PM in the history of Pakistan to be disqualified from office.
- This backdrop comes at a time when the already existing India-Pakistan relations are at a low and with the disqualified PM being perceived as someone who has always wanted to improve the relationship with India, it is not a good news for India in a way.
- In the ouster, surprisingly, the Pakistani Army has remained silent publicly on the issue. However, in the Joint Investigation Team created by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, there was the presence of a Military Intelligence Official and an Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Official, which shows that the influence the military establishment still continues to have a strong hold in Pakistan.
- Some people perceive the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, as being politically motivated, with some saying there was a judicial overreach by the Court. Also, the court has directed the National Accountability Bureau to further investigate into cases related to Panama papers.
- However, there are also reports that the developments are a sort of deepening the roots of democracy in Pakistan because the due process of law was followed.
Pakistan Politics and the Impact on India-Pakistan relationship
- The disqualified PM was seen as someone who tried to pursue a better relationship with India. Thus, his ouster can have implications with the incoming new PM of Pakistan.
- This can be a cause of concern because of the background scenario with the relationship between both countries already fraught and the Pakistan Army indirectly flexing its muscle in the process of the ouster of the PM. The future thus remains uncertain.
Terrorism and Kashmir – The never ending issues
- Cross border terrorism has always been an issue.
- Some analysts go to the extent of saying that both nations are always in a perpetual state of war.
- Despite the fact the after the Kargil conflict, there was a Ceasefire Agreement signed in 2003, there have been regular cross border ceasefire violations from the Pakistan side of the border with the trend being as such that since 2009 onwards, there has been a rise in the violations (with the exception of 2014). It has killed and injured security forces as well as civilians on both the sides.
- With the regime change in India, there has been a different approach to the violations. With the hardline policy of the new government, there has been massive retaliation to the unprovoked firing.
- Thus, out of desperation, there has been a rise in the number of infiltrations of terrorists from across the Line of Control (LOC), which has been routine for quite a while now.
- With the void in between the Kashmiri people and the establishment increasing after the devastating floods of 2014, there was rising discontent again in the valley. The trigger to the events was the killing of the militant commander of the terrorist organization Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Burhan Wani, which led to widespread protests in the valley and the situation has been highly volatile ever since with almost daily scenes of protests and stone pelting in the valley.
- Pakistan has taken advantage of the situation and has fuelled the protests by providing the elements fighting against the Indian establishment and Forces in the state with all sorts of possible support. The PM of Pakistan, in fact, went a step ahead and during the United Nations General Assembly meeting of 2016, declared Wani as a martyr and the struggle of the people of Kashmir as an Intifada.
- This is in sync with the stand Pakistan holds on Kashmir i.e., to internationalize the issue of Kashmir and asking for holding a plebiscite in Kashmir under Indian administration to decide the fate of Kashmiri people. The stand has been rejected by India as it says it is in direct violation of the Shimla Agreement of 1972, which clearly mentions that peaceful resolution to all issues will be through bilateral approach.
- After the attack at the Pathankot base in 2016 January, there was again a thaw in the relationship, especially when seen in the context that the Indian PM paid an unscheduled visit to Pakistan to meet his Pakistani counterpart. With Kashmir already on the boil and Pakistan adding fuel to fire to the situation, the attack on Uri Army camp in September 2016 in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed made the Indian PM declare the statement that ‘talks and terrorism’ cannot go hand in hand.
- This was followed by surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army across the LOC targeting the terror infrastructure in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). They were carried out at the end of September.
- In a first, India tinkered with the Indus Water Treaty, a Treaty which has stood the test of time and the bitter sour relationship for more than 55 years and was pondering with the fact to fully exploit the water potential of the West flowing rivers over which Pakistan has control.
- Thus, the fact trickles down to the point that India has its stand that until Pakistan doesn’t do enough to tackle the terrorism menace, there can be no talks held in between the nations.
- On the other hand, Pakistan is ready for a dialogue with India but it wants the inclusion and discussion of the Kashmir issue which it keeps raking up every time.
The Curious Case of Kulbushan Jadhav
- The case of Kulbushan Jadhav, a retired Naval officer arrested nears the Iran-Pakistan border in Baluchistan region by the Pakistani establishment.
- He has been accused by Pakistan of espionage and spying and has been sentenced to death by a military court in Pakistan.
- India, on many previous occasions, demanded consular access of Jadhav, a demand consistently rejected by Pakistan citing national security issues.
- India says that Jadhav was a retired Naval officer who was a businessman working in Iran and has been falsely framed by the Pakistani establishment.
- As there were repeated denials of the Consular Access, India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at Hague where it put forward the argument that Vienna Convention was being violated as the Consular Access was denied.
- The ICJ has asked Pakistan to stay the execution of Jadhav and the matter is sub judice.
Future of India-Pakistan relationship
- India and Pakistan are neighbours. Neighbours can’t be changed. Thus, it is in the better of interest of both the nations that they bring all the issues on the drawing board and resolve them amicably.
- India wants Pakistan to act more strongly on the terrorism being sponsored from its soil.
- Also, India wants Pakistan to conclude the trial of 26/11 sooner so that the victims are brought to justice and the conspirers meted out proper punishment.
- India has genuine concerns, as there are internationally declared terrorists roaming freely in Pakistan and preaching hate sermons as well instigating terror attacks.
- With the international community accusing Pakistan of breeding terrorism on its soil, Pakistan cannot remain in denial state and thus, needs to act tougher on terrorism related issues.
India-Pakistan Relations: Positive initiatives which were taken in the past
- Composite Dialogue Framework, which was started from 2004 onwards, excluded, some of the contentious issues between the two sides had resulted in good progress on a number of issues.
- Delhi-Lahore Bus service was successful in de-escalating tensions for some time.
- Recently, the ‘Ufa ‘Agreement’ was made during the meeting of the National Security Advisors of both nations at Ufa, Russia.
A couple of important points agreed upon in Ufa were:
- Early meetings of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers followed by the DGMOs.
- Discussing ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information needed to supplement the trial.
Ufa Agreement has now become a new starting point of any future India-Pakistan dialogue, which is a major gain for India.
However, despite all the initiatives, there is always a breakdown in talks. Thus, more needs to be done for developing peaceful relations. With India and Pakistan both being two Nuclear States, any conflict can lead to a question mark on the existence of the subcontinent as well as the entire planet, especially with the border being ‘live’ almost all the time.
Benefits, which can be accrued from a good India-Pakistan Relationship
- If there is peace at the border and a solution of Kashmir is arrived upon, then the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) can certainly benefit Kashmir, its people and the economy. Kashmir can act as a gateway to Central Asia.
- Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline which originates in Turkmenistan and passes through Afghanistan, Pakistan before reaching and terminating in India can also get huge benefits as it can help secure the National Energy needs of both Pakistan and India, which are potentially growing nations with increasing needs of energy.
- Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline is another project, which is currently stalled. If relations are cordial, then this pipeline can also supply the energy needs of both the nations.
- A stable Afghanistan is in the best interest of both Pakistan as well as India. Terrorism is affecting both India as well as Pakistan and the porous boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan provides a safe haven for terrorists. Also, a better relationship with Pakistan can give direct road access to Afghanistan. Currently, India has to go via Iran to Afghanistan to send any trade goods and vice versa.
- South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the initiatives taken by the association will start to hold more relevance as the same hasn’t lived up to its expected potential as the elephant in the room during any summit is sour in the India-Pakistan relationship.
Article by: Aadarsh Clerk
Conflict Over Afghanistan2
The February 2010 attack on the Indian guest houses was a rare overt act of hostility in the long covert struggle India and Pakistan have been waging on and off for more than sixty years over their competing influence in Afghanistan. But it was not the only such act. In fact it was the third in less than three years.
Fifteen months before, on October 8, 2009, a massive car bomb had been set off outside the Indian embassy in Kabul killing 17 people and wounding 63. Most of the dead were ordinary Afghans caught walking near the target. A few Indian security personnel were wounded, but blast walls built following a much deadlier bombing the previous year which killed 40 and wounded more than 100—also thought to have been sponsored by Pakistan—deflected the force of the explosion, so that physical damage to the embassy was limited to some of the doors and windows being blown out. In the case of the 2009 attack, American officials went public with details from phone intercepts which they said revealed the involvement of the ISI.
The hostility between India and Pakistan lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan.
The hostility between India and Pakistan lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan. Most observers in the West view the Afghanistan conflict as a battle between the U.S. and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on one hand, and al-Qaida and the Taliban on the other. In reality this has long since ceased to be the case. Instead our troops are now caught up in a complex war shaped by two pre-existing and overlapping conflicts: one local and internal, the other regional.
Within Afghanistan, the war is viewed primarily as a Pashtun rebellion against President Hamid Karzai’s regime, which has empowered three other ethnic groups—the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras of the north—to a degree that the Pashtuns resent. For example, the Tajiks, who constitute only 27% of the Afghan population, still make up 70% of the officers in the Afghan army.
Although Karzai himself is a Pashtun, many of his fellow tribesmen view his presence as mere window-dressing for a U.S.-devised realignment of long-established power relations in the country, dating back to 2001 when the U.S. toppled the overwhelmingly Pashtun Taliban.
The Pashtuns had held sway in Afghan politics ever since the state assumed its current boundaries in the 1860s. By aligning with the Tajiks of the northern provinces against the Pashtuns of the south, the U.S. saw itself making common cause with the forces of secularism against militant Islam; but it was unwittingly taking sides in a complex civil war that has been going on since the 1970s—and that had roots going back much further than that. To this day, because the Pashtuns feel dominated by their ancestral enemies, many support or at least feel some residual sympathies for the Taliban.
There is also an age-old Pashtun-on-Pashtun element to the conflict. It pits Taliban from the Ishaqzai tribe, parts of the Nurzais, Achakzais, and most of the Ghilzais, especially the Hotak and Tokhi Ghilzais, against the more “establishment” Durrani Pashtun tribes: the Barakzais, Popalzais and Alikozais.
Beyond this indigenous conflict looms the much more dangerous hostility between the two regional powers—both armed with nuclear weapons: India and Pakistan. Their rivalry is particularly flammable as they vie for influence over Afghanistan. Compared to that prolonged and deadly contest, the U.S. and ISAF are playing little more than a bit part—and they, unlike the Indians and Pakistanis, are heading for the exit.
July 1999: U.S. President Bill Clinton (r) shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif outside Blair House following their talks on de-escalating tensions between Pakistan and India over Kashmir in Washington July 4.
Since the Partition of the Subcontinent in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars—the most recent in 1971—and they seemed on the verge of going nuclear against each other during a crisis in 1999, when Pakistani troops crossed a ceasefire line and occupied 500 square miles of Indian Kashmir, including a Himalayan border post near the town of Kargil. As tensions rose, the Pakistanis took ominous steps with their nuclear arsenal. President Bill Clinton mediated a solution. In intense negotiations at Blair House in Washington over the Fourth of July weekend, Clinton persuaded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to order a pullback of his country’s forces to the Pakistani side of the line. That concession cost Nawaz his job and, very nearly, his life. The army commander, Pervez Musharraf, mounted a coup and sentenced Nawaz to death. Clinton intervened and Nawaz was exiled to Saudi Arabia.
It is easy to understand why Pakistan might feel insecure. India’s population (1.2 billion) and its economy (GDP of $1.4 trillion) are about eight times the size of Pakistan’s (180 million Pakistanis generating an annual GDP of only $210 billion). During the period of India’s greatest growth, which lasted from 2006 to 2010, there were four years during which the annual increase in the Indian economy was almost equal to the entire Pakistani economy.
In the eyes of the world, never has the contrast between the two countries appeared so stark as it is now: one is widely perceived as the next great superpower, famous for its software geniuses, its Bollywood babes, its fast-growing economy and super-rich magnates; the other written off as a failed state, a world center of Islamic radicalism, the hiding place of Osama bin Laden, and the only ally of the U.S. whose airspace Washington has been ready to violate and whose villages it regularly bombs. However unfair this stereotyping may be, it’s not surprising that many Pakistanis see their massive neighbor as threatening the very existence of their state.
In December 1971, Pakistani and Indian forces clashed in Khulna, in what is now Bangladesh. The battle was the last major engagement fought on the eastern front of the third war between India and Pakistan. In this photo, Indian soldiers walk past a destroyed Indian tank.
To defend themselves, Pakistani planners long ago developed a doctrine of “strategic depth.” The idea had its origins in the debacle of 1971, when, in less than two weeks, India crushingly defeated Pakistan in their third war. That conflict ended with East Pakistan, which had risen up against West Pakistan, becoming the independent state of Bangladesh. According to the Pakistanis’ narrative, the dismemberment of their country—which they blame on India—made it all the more important to develop and maintain friendly relations with Afghanistan, in large measure in order to have a secure refuge in the case of a future war with India. The porous border offers a route by which Pakistani leaders, troops and other assets, including its nuclear weapons, could retreat to the northwest in the case of an Indian invasion.
For the idea to work, it is essential that the Afghan government be a close ally of Pakistan, and willing to help fight India. When the Taliban were in power, they were seen as the perfect partner for the Pakistani military. Although widely viewed in the West as medieval if not barbaric, the Taliban regime was valued in Pakistan as fiercely anti-India and therefore deserving Pakistani arms and assistance.
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The current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai has been the dominant political figure there since the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001. An ethnic Pashtun, he is a member of the Popalzai tribe. He has lived, worked and studied in both India and Pakistan. His second presidential term ends in 2014, and he has said that he will step aside.
After the Taliban were ousted by the U.S. after 9/11, a major strategic shift occurred: the government of Afghanistan became an ally of India’s, thus fulfilling the Pakistanis’ worst fear. The president of post-Taliban Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, hated Pakistan with a passion, in part because he believed that the ISI had helped assassinate his father in 1999. At the same time he felt a strong emotional bond with India, where he had gone to university in the Himalayan city of Simla, once the summer capital of British India. When I interviewed Karzai in Kabul in early March, he spoke warmly of his days in Simla, calling them some of the happiest of his life, and he was moved almost to tears as he recalled the sound of monsoon rain hitting the tin roof of his student lodgings and the sight of the beautiful cloud formations drifting before his windows. He also expressed his love of Indian food and even admitted to liking Bollywood films. Karzai views India as democratic, stable and relatively rich, the perfect partner for Afghanistan, a “best friend” as he frequently calls it.
With Karzai in office, India seized the opportunity to increase its political and economic influence in Afghanistan, re-opening its embassy in Kabul, opening four regional consulates, and providing substantial reconstruction assistance totaling around $1.5 billion, with an additional $500 million promised within the next few years.
For the Pakistani military, the existential threat posed by India has taken precedence over all other geopolitical and economic goals.
An Afghan soldier searches a Pashtun voter at the polling station during parliamentary elections in Spin Boldak near the Afghan/Pakistan border September 18, 2005.
REUTERS/Saeed Ali Achakzai MK/TC
That said, India’s presence is still, even now, quite modest. According to Indian diplomatic sources, there are actually fewer than 3,600 Indians in Afghanistan, almost all of them businessmen and contract workers in the agriculture, telecommunications, manufacturing and mining sectors. There are only 10 Indian diplomatic officers, compared to nearly 140 in the UK embassy and 1,200 in the U.S. embassy. But the Pakistani military, which effectively controls Pakistan’s foreign policy, remains paranoid about even this small an Indian presence in what they regard as their strategic Afghan backyard—much as the British used to be about Russians in Afghanistan during the days of the Great Game.
For the Pakistani military, the existential threat posed by India has taken precedence over all other geopolitical and economic goals. The fear of being squeezed in an Indian nutcracker is so great that it has led the ISI to take steps that put Pakistan’s own internal security at risk, as well as Pakistan’s relationship with its main strategic ally, the U.S. For much of the last decade the ISI has sought to restore the Taliban to power so that it can oust Karzai and his Indian friends.
In a nation whose government has often been run by the military, and whose foreign policy has been seen as carried out by the ISI, General Kayani has held the leadership of both institutions. Currently chief of staff of the army, a position he has held since 2007, Kayani reversed Musharraf's policy of staffing military officers in the government's civilian posts. Forbes magazine ranked him the 28th most powerful person in the world in 2012.
To achieve this goal, the Pakistani military has relied on “asymmetric warfare”— using jihadi fighters for its own ends. This strategy goes back over 30 years. Since the early 1980s, the ISI has consciously and consistently funded and incubated a variety of Islamic extremist groups. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid calculates that there are currently more than 40 such extremist groups operating in Pakistan, most of whom have strong links with the ISI as well as the local Islamic political parties.
Pakistani generals have long viewed the jihadis as a cost-effective and easily-deniable means of controlling events in Afghanistan—something they briefly achieved with the Taliban capture of Kabul in 1996. By the same means, the Pakistanis have kept much of the Indian army bogged down in Kashmir ever since the separatist insurgency broke out in 1990. The generals like using jihadis because they help foster a sense of nationalism based on the twin prongs of hatred for India and the bonding power of Islamic identity.
A Short History of India - Pakistan Relations
It is unclear how many Pakistanis still endorse this strategy and how many are having second thoughts. There are clearly those in the army who are now alarmed at the amount of sectarian and political violence the jihadis have brought to Pakistan. But that view is contested by some in both the army and the ISI who continue to believe that the jihadis are a more practical defense against Indian hegemony than even nuclear weapons. For them, support for carefully chosen jihadis in Afghanistan is a vital survival strategy well worth the risk. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the commander-in-chief of the Pakistani army, was once in this camp. As he put it in a speech in 2001, “Strategically, we cannot have an Afghan army on our western border which has an Indian mindset and capabilities to take on Pakistan.” How far he has now changed his position remains a matter of debate.
Brookings President Strobe Talbott interviews the author about the contest for power and influence in one of the world's most dangerous regions.
Pakistan-watchers are unanimous that, while Kayani is mindful of the Taliban threat in his own country, his burning obsession is still India’s presence in Afghanistan. As I was told by a senior British diplomat in Islamabad, "At the moment, Afghanistan is all [Kayani] thinks about and all he wants to talk about. It’s all he gets briefed about and it’s his primary focus of attention. There is an Indo-Pak proxy war, and it’s going on right now.”