INDO-PAK RELATIONS – A BOOM OR A DOOM?

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The sovereign states of India and Pakistan came into existence at the stroke of midnight on August 14-15, 1947, after a turbulent 335 years of the East India Company Rule, which gave way to the British colonial rule after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Both the countries’ had the view that after gaining freedom from a long struggle, both would work peacefully as helpful neighbours and ensure prosperity and development of the two South Asian giants. According to the 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 21% of Indians view Pakistan’s influence positively, with 58% expressing a negative view, while 17% of Pakistanis view India’s influence positively, with 49% expressing a negative view.

Soon after their independence, India and Pakistan established diplomatic relations but the violent partition and numerous territorial disputes would overshadow their relations. Since their independence, the two countries’ have fought four major wars between 1947 and 1999 and have been involved in numerous armed skirmishes and military standoffs. The Kashmir dispute is the talk of the town amongst all conflicts straining the relationship of India and Pakistan. There is an exception also, which includes the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971(Indo-Pakistani War of 1971), that led to the secession of the erstwhile East Pakistan from West Pakistan, to form the independent sovereign state of Bangladesh.

After the dissolution of the British Empire in 1947, two new sovereign nations were formed- the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The subsequent partition of the former British India displaced up to 12.5 million people, with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to around a million. India emerged as a secular nation with a Hindu majority population and a large Muslim minority while Pakistan was established as an Islamic Republic with an overwhelming Muslim majority population.

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Both the countries’ relations have been complex and under threat by a number of political, historical and geographical issues since 1947. Starting from the Kashmir issue till the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, their relationship have been stagnated by terrorism, hostility and suspicion even though both nations share many linguistic and cultural links. Also, significant steps are being taken to improve relations, in particular the consensus on the agreement of Non-Discriminatory Market Access on Reciprocal Basis(NDMARB) status for each other, which will liberalize trade, which has caused a rift between the arch rivals.

The problem and complexity surrounding the strained relationship started right after attaining independence in August 1947. The Pakistani leaders and people were of the opinion that since the princely state of Kashmir & Jammu was predominantly Muslim people, it should be included in Pakistan. The Maharaja of that state Hari Singh did not wanted to join either India or Pakistan and wanted to remain independent like a small country. Pakistan, on India’s reluctance then sent soldiers of the Pakistan Army to capture the princely state in October 1947. Ultimately, the Maharaja, on the assistance of getting help from the Indian Army to protect the state, signed a pact titled Instrument To Accession and immediately Kashmir became a part of India in 1948. Even today, the issue over the sovereignty of the disputed state continues and is debated constantly.

Junagadh was a state on the southwestern end of Gujarat, with the principalities of Manavadar, Mangrol and Babriawad constituting the princely state. It was not contiguous to Pakistan and other states physically separated it from Pakistan. The state had an overwhelming Hindu population which constituted more than 80% of its citizens, while its ruler, Nawab Mahabat Khan, was a Muslim. Mahabat Khan acceded to Pakistan on 15th August 1947 and Pakistan confirmed the acceptance of the accession.

However, India did not accept the accession as legitimate. The Indian point of view was that Junagadh was not contiguous to Pakistan, that the Hindu majority of Junagadh wanted it to be a part of India, and that the state was surrounded by Indian territory on three sides. The Pakistani point of view was that since Junagadh had a ruler and governing body who chose to accede to Pakistan, it should be allowed to do so. Also, because Junagadh had a coastline, it could have maintained maritime links with Pakistan even as an enclave within India.

Neither of the states was able to resolve this issue amicably and it only added fuel to an already charged environment. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister, felt that if Junagadh was permitted to go to Pakistan, it would create communal unrest across Gujarat. The government of India gave Pakistan time to void the accession and hold a plebiscite in Junagadh to pre-empt any violence in Gujarat. Patel, then ordered the annexation of Junagadh’s three principalities. India blocked supplies of fuel and coal to Junagadh, severed air and postal links and sent its troops to the frontier. In early 1948, the Nawab of Junagadh and his family fled to Pakistan following clashes with Indian troops. A plebiscite was held in February 1948 and immediately, Junagadh acceded to India.

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Sharing of river water is cited as one possible cause for a conflict between two or more nations. India and Pakistan signed two important treaties as a part of establishing stable and formal diplomatic relations in 1950. The first treaty was the Indus River Water Treaty, where both India and Pakistan would agree to share the Indus river for their own use judiciously. The Indus river is the longest river in Pakistan and flows through Jammu & Kashmir in India. The second one was the Sir Creek Boundary Treaty, which was signed during the Sino-Indian War in 1962 to respect the line demarcation officially separating India and Pakistan. It came into force after the second war between the arch rivals in 1965. The Sir Creek Line is situated between the Kutch District of Gujarat and the Sindh Province of Pakistan.

The Indo-Pakistani Relations turned into a worse route when both fought a third war not for the sovereignty over Kashmir, but for the liberation of East Pakistan, on a linguistic basis. India supported the cause of independence of Bangladesh and easily defeated the West Pakistani forces and ordered a ceasefire. After the war, India along with Bhutan and Nepal recognised the new country. Pakistan, which did not recognise Bangladesh initially, was eventually forced to recognise the Bengali speaking country in 1974.

There have been numerous attempts to improve the relationship notably, the Shimla Summit, the Agra Summit and the Lahore Declaration, in order to abandon nuclear wars and encouraging bilateral trade and development. Also, these summits promised both the countries’ to respect the Line of Actual Control(L.O.C). Since the early 1980s, relations between the two nations soured once again after the Siachen conflict, the intensification of Kashmir insurgency in 1989, the competition between Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998 and the 1999 Kargil War.

In 1999, Pakistan infiltrated their forces in the various sectors of the Indian Army in the cold, mountainous ranges of Kargil in Jammu & Kashmir. India, on coming to know about the developments, reacted swiftly. Slowly and steadily, the Indian Army closed on the ‘militants’ and cleared every sector of the army occupied in Kargil. Ultimately, Pakistan lost out and faced international pressure from her neighbours and other countries. The 2001 Indian Parliament attack almost brought the two nations on the brink of a nuclear war. The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, which killed 68 civilians, was also a crucial point in relations. Additionally and recently, the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by Pakistani militants resulted in a severe blow to the ongoing India-Pakistan peace talks.

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Despite the frequent downs in the relationship, both the countries’ together worked in tandem to improve their souring ties. As both India and Pakistan co-existed together during the British Raj, cultural links are somewhat similar. Urdu and Punjabi are the official languages spoken in Pakistan, while it is spoken in the northern parts of India by a large number of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Also, the Arabian and Mughlai cuisines are readily available and popular in both the countries. The Mughal Empire, that ruled from present day Afghanistan till the eastern and central parts of India has led to the change in people’s habits of cuisine and lifestyle. Relations between Pakistan and India have also resumed through media platforms. The Aman Ki Asha Programme is a joint venture and campaign between The Times of India and the Jang Group of Pakistan, calling for mutual peace and development of diplomatic and cultural relations.

The Wagah Border is the only road crossing between India and Pakistan and lies on the famous Grand Trunk Road, which connects Lahore in Pakistan to Amritsar in India. On any national event, the Wagah Border is decorated and illuminated magnificently to instill nationalism and patriotism of both the countries. Also, India and Pakistan till date, have maintained good and stable diasporic relations. The large size of the Indian diaspora and Pakistani diaspora in many different countries throughout the world has created strong diasporic relations. It is quite common for a “Little India” and a “Little Pakistan” colony to co-exist in South Asian ethnic enclaves in overseas countries. Also, many film actors and singers each cross the border for establishing their names there respectively. Classical dances of India, Bollywood movies and Indian pop songs have been popular in Pakistan, while Sufi songs, ghazals and Pakistani serials have generated interest in many Indian households.

The transportation links between Pakistan and India have improved significantly after the Partition of India in 1947. The Grand Trunk Road, built by Sher Shah Suri in the 16th Century, which connects Kolkata in India to the Punjab Province in Pakistan still exists. The Pakistan International Airlines operates non-stop flights between the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Karachi and the Indian cities of New Delhi and Mumbai. However, neither Indian Airlines nor Air India do not operate any such flights. A Pakistani low cost carrier- the Airblue has intentions to start a Mumbai-Karachi air route very soon.

Railway routes and bus services are also operating between the two countries. The Samjhauta Express, meaning the Friendship Express in Urdu was jointly launched by the Indian Railways and Pakistan Railways in 1977 between Lahore and Amritsar, for better facilitation of people and goods. The Thar Express, which is the oldest route plys between Karachi and Jodhpur, was started in 1948. It was temporarily closed after the lines were destroyed during the 1965 war. It opened for commercial operations in 2006, after a gap of 41 years.

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The New Delhi-Lahore Bus Service was first launched in 1999 by the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Due to the successful project launch, a second bus service was inducted and commenced operations in 2003. It connects Srinagar, the capital of Jammu & Kashmir and Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir(PoK). Pakistan relies heavily on India for their imported goods and agricultural produce as Pakistan’s monetary condition is inefficient to make its people self sufficient. Both the countries’ have a sizeable number of nuclear weapons. While India uses these weapons only for peaceful purposes, Pakistan claims the same reason too, though the country uses mainly for protecting the international borders in case of any armed attack.

The India-Pakistan cricket rivalry is one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world. An India-Pakistan cricket match has been estimated to attract up to three hundred million television viewers, according to TV ratings firm ‘Initiative’. The 2011 World Cup semifinal between the two teams attracted close to 170 million television viewers, the largest television event of that year.

The arch-rival relations between the two nations, resulting from the extensive communal violence and conflict that marked the Partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947 and the subsequent Kashmir conflict, laid the foundations for the emergence of an intense sporting rivalry between the two nations who had erstwhile shared a common cricketing heritage. Also, India-Pakistan cricket matches have also offered opportunities for cricket diplomacy as a means to improve relations between the two countries by allowing heads of state to exchange visits and cricket followers from either country to travel to the other to watch the matches.

Since the 1980s, India and Pakistan have carried out research and development in supercomputing, information technology and scientific applications relating to computer science. Since the early 1990s, the economic liberalisation and privatisation policy measures and programs led to a boom in information technology in both the countries. The scientific competition in the 1970s led to increased funding for science and technology development from primary education through the post-graduate level in the Indian and Pakistani school systems. Pakistan annually invites scientists from all over the world to participate in the ‘Physical Sciences and Mathematics Summer Research Seminar’ in Karachi, to support joint development of and benefit science and technology.

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Inspite of all the continued and improved ways of the stagnating relationship, there still exist a huge gap which needs to be bridged along. Despite signing various treaties and pacts, ranging from military to finance, an overall and stable development has been lacked in both the countries’ relations. Pakistan’s another close ally, China, which has helped Pakistan in financing with the nuclear weapons since 1950, continues to be a major irritant and threat for India. China has also claimed to support Pakistan during its wars and conflicts with India and have allegedly supplied secret superior weapons to them.

Even after 68 years of independence, Pakistan continues to violate the L.O.C or play a blame game with India if any situation goes against them. It has been observed that having a stable democratic government automatically reduces the main deterrents surrounding a relationship. While, India has established itself as a stable democratic state, Pakistan, at times have a democratic government, which is unstable and for a short period of time. The military coups have been long dominating the politics in Pakistan.

In my opinion, the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan has brought a lot of boom as well as doom. While there are plenty of booms achieved, the number of dooms committed is not far behind. There need to be certain steps in order to reduce the tensions and suspicions surrounding the relations and make it a fruitful one in the long run. Firstly, there is a need to adopt a strategic stability regime and also to develop a common nuclear policy between both the arch rivals. Secondly, constant confidence building measures should be pursued and adopted in order to remove the trust deficit and suspicions. Thirdly, greater trading of precious goods and economic cooperation is required as it help both India and Pakistan to develop hand in hand.

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Another suitable option is the formulation of a free but strict visa policy for both the countries’ in common so that people can travel across the border and work freely, which enhances both economic and political cooperation. The problem of terrorism should be solved together rather than playing blamegames and petty tricks on either side of the country. Working together, will lead to have mutually active, supportive and rejuvenated relations, along with combating terrorism, corruption and poverty. Lastly, it has been objected that since the people of both PoK and Jammu & Kashmir wants to stay with India, a proposed plebiscite should be pursued like the one held in Junagadh.

Finally, I enclose my views by saying that with the coming of the new governments in both India and Pakistan for the last two years, it is hoped that the leaders should play safe and should assess the nature and reality of the situation, only then the mutual suspicion will be removed. We would also wish a miracle in establishing a formal and peaceful relationship in the long run, which has not happened for the last 68 years between the arch rivals. Such ties will get the green light for development and prosperity, which has been delayed for such a long period of time.

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AT LAST, HIGH SPEED RAILWAYS ZOOMS INTO INDIA

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Before, I start penning down about the introduction of high speed railways(HSRs) in my country, I just wanted to ask a simple question to all of my dear readers – Have you ever been to any bullet train of any other country? Well, majority of them would say yes and would remember and cherish the moment of that train trip, whether it is for business or leisure purposes. I too, have a exciting moment with the bullet trains I have gone with my parents, when I was young. I would like to share a moment to all of my readers of my blog.

During my six year stay in South-East Asia, I had hoped on to every bullet train, whether the distance was short or long. I really enjoyed the picturesque beauties outside and the speed was just so awesome! Say for an example, my father took me to a bullet train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou. The total distance was about 135 km. According to me, it could have taken 1.5 hours to reach Guangzhou. But, I was wrong, as this train completely changed my mind about the definition of a train! The train when it started from Hong Kong, zoomed past the city like a bullet coming out of a gun, with a speed of almost 300 km/h, and I reached Guangzhou in just 15 minutes. Exciting, isn’t it?

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After some memorable, exciting but tiring trips on the bullet trains, I had wished for these trains in India too. But, the government did not pay attention to the HSRs and instead, changed the infrastructure of railway stations and electrified tracks for competition with the world. Superfast expresses were introduced and their speed was restricted to about 160 km/h. Though, I welcomed the decision, but still it did not made me amused that it was not the kind of a speed that a bullet train generally has. Also, the ruling government, at that time was of the opinion that introducing HSRs would lead to derailments of trains, changing the people’s perceptions that the Indian Railways is quite unsafe and this would lead to a revenue loss for the government oriented sector.

As of today, India has the fourth largest railway network and one of the largest rail networks in the world, but does not have any HSRs lines capable of supporting speeds of 200 km/h or more. Railways have selected 10 routes on which such high speed trains would be run. The initial speed of these trains would be 160 km/h and gradually the speed would be raised up to 200 km/h or more. The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), which won the 2014 general elections of India, has promised to build the Diamond Quadrilateral connecting four mega cities of India- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai located in four edges of the country with high speed trains.

HSRs in India would be a massively expensive exercise by the central government involving enormous public expenditure that India can ill afford, detracting from badly needed public investment in social infrastructure and poverty eradication, while benefiting only international corporates, local contractors and cronies, and a small number of aspirational elites indulging in luxury travel. In fact, skepticism about HSRs in India is widely shared by many transportation experts, financial institutions, and even by renowned HSR engineering companies based on assessments of costs, ridership, possible ticket prices, viability and societal benefits.

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In India, HSRs would involve completely new tracks and related infrastructure including stations and protective structures around the new tracks, new locomotives and rolling stock, and new operational systems. It is clear that existing tracks are too crowded and slow even for passenger traffic alone, except in some stretches where they have been upgraded for superfast trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto with maximum speeds of 160 km/h.

A diamond quadrilateral of new HSR track would involve substantial land acquisition, huge fresh investments including large debt and interest burdens, and in turn would entail high ridership and tariffs to enable recouping of these high initial costs. Not many countries have been able to afford HSRs or meet the various conditions required, due to the financial and social burden on the economies.

As a part of the ambitious Diamond Quadrilateral project, to improve the country’s railway infrastructure, India is planning to start semi-high speed trains on nine corridors and has ambition to run bullet trains in the future. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad Corridor is the the first bullet train corridor to be officially implemented in the country in August 2014. If all goes as planned, the corridor may be operational by 2017. This corridor will be operated on broad gauge tracks. The major terminals will be at Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. In all, this project will cover 15 states after all the corridors under this project will be completed by 2020. Trains here will run at a speed of 200 km/h.

The first semi bullet train will run between the national capital, New Delhi to Agra, which is famous for the Taj Mahal. A feasibility study was conducted in December 2013 by Alstom, a reputed French rail transport organisation. It will be beneficial for tourists as both the cities are rich in monuments, tombs and temples. Construction of this corridor began in early 2014 and trial runs were successfully completed by Indian Railways in September 2014, attaining a top speed of 180 km/h. Currently, safety restrictions and trials are in place and it is expected to open by January-February 2015, if all trial stages have been successfully completed. Below is the picture of the semi bullet train during its trial stage.

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One of the first proposals to introduce high-speed trains in India was mooted in the mid-1980s by the then Railway Minister of India Madhavrao Scindia. A high-speed rail line between Delhi and Kanpur via Agra was proposed. An internal study found the proposal not to be viable at that time due to the high cost of construction and inability of travelling passengers to bear much higher fares than those for normal trains. The railways instead introduced Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains which ran at 160 km/h.

The Indian Ministry of Railways’ white-paper “Vision 2020”, submitted to the Parliament on December 2009, envisages the implementation of regional high-speed rail projects to provide services at 250-350 km/h, and planning for corridors connecting commercial, tourist, and pilgrimage hubs. Six corridors have been identified for technical studies on setting up of high-speed rail corridors- Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar, Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Kazipet-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai, Howrah-Haldia,Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram and Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna.

The Indian Railways set up a corporation called High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd(HSRC) in July 2013, that will deal with the proposed high-speed rail corridor projects. The corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd(RVNL). It will handle tendering, pre-feasibility studies, awarding contracts, and execution of the projects. The corporation will comprise four members, all of whom will be railway officials. All high-speed rail lines will be implemented as public-private partnerships on a Design, Build, Finance, Operate, and Transfer(DBFOT) basis.

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In a feasibility study published in 1987, Research Design & Standard Organisation(RDSO) and Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA) estimated the construction cost to be Rs 49 million per km, for a line dedicated to 250–300 km/h trains. In 2010, that 1987-estimated cost, inflated at 10% a year, would be Rs 439 million per km. Rail India Technical & Economic Service Limited(RITES) is currently performing a feasibility study. To put the construction in perspective, in the period 2005-09, Indian Railways took on the construction of 42 completely new conventional lines, a total of 4060 km at a cost of Rs 167 billion.

According to news media, the costs for constructing such rail lines in India are estimated to be Rs 700-1000 million per km. Therefore, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route of 500 km, will cost Rs 370 billion. To build and to make a profit, passengers will have to be charged Rs 5 per km and Delhi to Amritsar one-way, a distance of 450 km, will cost about Rs 2000. The Mumbai – Ahmedabad line is expected to cost Rs 650 billion.

India is considering running a high speed train using magnetic-levitation Maglev technology, after the successful implementation of the HSRs. HSR in India is still in feasibility study stage with the running of first high-speed rail in another 15 years. Japan’s new high-speed rail lines will be built to run trains above 500 km/h. In 1990s, when China was discussing the technology choice for the HSR to be built in the country, it wanted to build its high-speed railway network based on next generation railway running at 500 km/h.

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But there was no commercially run super-speed rail-line at that time. So, China choose to build it’s high-speed railway network on the 50-year old wheel-rail based technology, with a maximum speed of 300 km/h. But now, there are multiple superspeed commercial run railway lines in the world today. India may choose this technology as the standard for the high speed railway. Thus, it is hoped that if both the government and the international organisations work together, then the introduction the new HSR corridors in India will be an remarkable achievement and it will firmly put the country on the global railway map.

A POSSIBLE KOREAN REUNIFICATION?

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Is there a real possibility of the Reunification of the Korean Peninsula? Well, that has put much of us in deep thinking about what would be the outcome. Some years ago, many writers and thinkers just wrote off the fact that North Korea and South Korea would remain divided forever, though both the countries are sharing the same language, currency, culture and ethics. It was also assumed that neither of these countries would push for reunification as they differ in terms of governance and development. So, frankly speaking, does South Korea wants a reunification with her northern neighbour for overall equal development, or is it just a bait for them in order to establish supremacy over the whole Korean Peninsula? Well, there are a lot of questions this time and there should be meaningful answers. We will now describe the origin, pros and cons and the possible outcomes of the Korean Reunification respectively.

Korean Reunification refers to the potential future reunification of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea(North Korea) and the Republic of Korea(South Korea) under a single democratic state ruled by a unified government. This process was started by the June 15th North–South Joint Declaration in June 2000, where the two countries agreed to work towards a peaceful reunification in the future. However, this process has always been met with many difficulties due to continuous tension between the two countries, which have become vastly different through over six decades of separation. The June 15th North–South Joint Declaration was adopted between the leaders of both the Koreas on June 15th, 2000 and held various diplomatic meetings in order to work for the reunification. Some points came out during the meetings, which are as follows:-

  1. The South and the North have agreed to resolve the question of reunification independently and through the joint efforts of the Korean people, who are the masters of the country.
  2. For the achievement of reunification, we have agreed that there is a common element in the South’s concept of a confederation and the North’s formula for a loose form of federation. The South and the North agreed to promote reunification in that direction.
  3. The South and the North have agreed to promptly resolve humanitarian issues such as exchange visits by separated family members and relatives on the occasion of the August 15 National Liberation Day and the question of unswerving Communists serving prison sentences in the South.
  4. The South and the North have agreed to consolidate mutual trust by promoting balanced development of the national economy through economic cooperation and by stimulating cooperation and exchanges in civic, cultural, sports, health, environmental and all other fields.
  5. The South and the North have agreed to hold a dialogue between relevant authorities in the near future to implement the above agreements expeditiously.

The picture below shows the mammoth Arch of Reunification built by Kim-II Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea in the early 1970s.

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After Korea was being ruled by local kingdoms, Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and during the First World War(1914-18), Japan firmly established its supremacy over the peninsula. After Japan was defeated in the Second World War in 1945, Korea was established as a single state ruled by a democratic government, for a short stint. However, the coming up of the two superpowers- USSR(Union of Soviet Socialist Republic) and USA(United States of America), gave rise to a change in the local people’s mind about what system of government would be best suited for the country. USSR was a communist republic while the latter being a federal presidential capitalist republic. Constant tensions and border violence against China, Russia and Japan paved way for the Korean War, lasting for three terrifying years(1950-53).

The Division of Korea into South Korea and North Korea was the result of the 1945 Allied Forces’ victory in the Second World War, ending the Empire of Japan’s 35-year colonial rule of Korea. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to temporarily occupy the country as a trusteeship with the zone of control along the 38th Parallel, and Japan capitulated in August 1945. An initiative to hold general and free elections in the entire Korea came up in the United Nations in the fall of 1947. However this initiative did not materialize because of disagreement between the United States and the Soviet Union.

During the period between the fall of 1945 and the fall of 1947, in the absence of the opportunity to set up a stable unified government, two separate governments began evolving and consolidating in the South and in the North. A Communist state was permanently established under the Soviet Union in the North and a pro-Western state was set up in the South. The two superpowers backed different leaders and two States were effectively established, each of which claimed sovereignty over the whole Korean Peninsula.  The picture below shows the flag of a reunified Korea.

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The Korean Demilitarized Zone(DMZ) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. The DMZ is the de-facto border barrier, which runs in the vicinity of the 38th Parallel. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it.  It is 250 kilometres long, 4 km wide and is the most heavily militarized border in the world. The Northern Limit Line(NLL) is the de-facto maritime barrier between North and South Korean islands in the Yellow Sea, and the coastline and islands on both sides of the NLL are also very heavily militarized. Both these boundaries came after the Korean War in 1953.

Relations between the two Koreas have been strained in recent years, with provocative actions taken under the rule of Kim Jong-il and his son, Kim Jong-un. The untested nature of the new regime and general secrecy surrounding the North Korean government have led to speculation about whether Jong-un will prove a reformer or retain the policies of his predecessors. Also, Jong-un’s sudden accession and limited experience governing have also stoked fears about power struggles among different factions leading to future instability on the Korean Peninsula.

Reunification remains a long-term goal for the governments of both North and South Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made calls in his 2012 New Year’s Day speech to remove confrontation between the two countries and implement previous joint agreements for increased economic and political cooperation. The South Korean Ministry of Unification redoubled their efforts in 2011 and 2012 to raise awareness of the issue, launching a variety show called the “Miracle Audition and an internet sitcom with pro-unification themes. However, a 2014 government funded survey found that only 13% of South Koreans viewed North Korea as a hostile state, while 58% of South Koreans believed North Korea was a country they should cooperate with.

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Many reunification policies have been formulated and enacted by the Ministry of Unification. But most of these policies have been criticised by the North, citing lack of transparency and information. Also, since North Korea has an underdeveloped economy, the policy may not go well there, keeping in mind the financial burden of the government controlled economy. There are three main policies which were enacted to pave way for a smooth reunification of Korea:-

  • In 2011, a group of twelve lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties of South Korea introduced a bill into the National Assembly to allow for the establishment of a ‘unification tax’. The bill called for businesses to pay 0.5 percent of corporate tax, individuals to pay 5 percent of inheritance or gift taxes, and both individuals and companies to pay two percent of their income tax towards the cost of unification. The bill initiated legislative debate on practical measures to prepare for unification, as proposed by former President Lee Myung-Bak. The proposal for a unification tax was not warmly welcomed at that time, but Lee, has since reiterated concerns regarding the imminence of unification which, combined with North Korean behaviour, led to the tax proposal gaining wider acceptance.
  • The Sunshine Policy was introduced by the Millennium Democratic Party under former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, as a part of a campaign pledge to actively pursue reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea. The policy was intended to create conditions of economic assistance and cooperation for reunification, rather than sanctions and military threats. The plan was divided into three main parts- increased cooperation through inter-Korean organizations, national unification with two autonomous regional governments, and finally the creation of a central national government. In 1998, Kim approved large shipments of food aid to the North Korean government, lifted limits on business deals between North Korean and South Korean firms, and even called for a stop to the American economic embargo against the North.
  • It has recently been suggested that the formation of a Korean Economic Community could be a way to ease in unification of the Korean Peninsula. It also has outlined a comprehensive diplomatic package on North Korea that includes setting up a consultative body to discuss economic projects between the two Koreas. He proposed seeking a Korean economic community agreement to provide the legal and systemic basis for any projects agreed to in the body.

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South Korea has also launched a new initiative to show that it is not giving up on the unification of Korea. In this regard, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye unveiled her own unification model in a speech in the former East German city of Dresden in March 2014. This model, now known as the Dresden Declaration, prioritizes three main fields of collaboration that will lay the groundwork for reunification:-

  1. The first feature of the model is “humanity” and it prioritizes family reunification. For more than 60 years it was impossible to bring the families that were separated by the war and subsequent territorial division back together. It has only been since 2000 that a limited number of family members living on opposite sides of the border were able to meet for only a few days.
  2. The second element of the model is “co-prosperity”, which can be achieved through the development of inter-Korean infrastructure projects and improvements to be made to the livelihoods of all people in Korea. In this regard, it is proposed that cooperation increase between the North and South with respect to multi-farming agricultural and livestock complexes and in the field of forestry management.
  3. The third element of the vision emphasizes “integration” of the people of North and South Korea. The prominent point here is to redress the overwhelming absence of people-to-people contact among those living on opposite sides of the border.

The Korean Reunification has been compared to several and similar reunifications over the last three to four decades. Prominent examples includes the reunifications of Germany and Vietnam. Comparing with the German Reunification, both sides of Germany did not have a civil war during the Cold War and they maintained a working relationship after the war, but the two Koreas’ relationship has been more acrimonious since 1953. The East Germans also had 360,000 Soviet troops on their soil during the Cold War. However, North Korea has not had any foreign troops on its soil since 1953.

Pyramide_Corée_du_Nord_(english)

The East Germans looked favourably at the fact that West Germans had good retirement benefits, public order, and strong civil society, whereas the North Koreans are not aware of any immediate benefits from uniting with South Korea, because of its isolation and aloofness from the rest of the world. The North Korean population is far more culturally distinct and isolated than the East German population was in the late 1980s. Unlike in East Germany, North Koreans generally cannot receive foreign broadcasting or read foreign publications. Germany was divided for 44 years and did not have border clashes between the two sides. By comparison, the Koreas have been divided for over 60 years, and hostilities have flared over the years since then.

Another cause of concern is the economy of the two Koreas. While the former is an underdeveloped and an isolated state-run economy, the latter is an advanced and a well off one.   In relative terms, North Korea’s economy is currently worse than that of East Germany in 1990. The income per capita ratio(PPP) was about 3:1 in Germany.The ratio is close to 18:1 in Korea as of now in a 2012 data. While at the moment of German reunification the East German population was about a third of West Germany, the North Korean population is currently around half of South Korea’s population.

Comparing with the Vietnamese Reunification, Vietnam was also divided into communist North and capitalist South respectively in the same manner. Unlike the Korean War, the Vietnam War spanned a much longer period and spilled over to the neighbouring countries of Laos and Cambodia. The end of the war resulted in all three countries coming under control of the communist-oriented independence movements, with China and the Soviet Union competing for influence. Relations between North and South Vietnam were also tricky, with North Vietnam being largely isolated and unrecognized except by other communist states, similarly to North Korea.

South_Korea_Age_Pyramid_(English)

The North Vietnamese population was similar to the North Korean population in that foreign broadcasting or publications was prohibited in the country. In contrast, the South Vietnamese population saw a rising middle class that became increasingly Westernized, maintaining some of the French cultural and social trends of the colonial period and increasingly, becoming influenced by American cultural trends as well.

The reunification of Korea could see similar economic effects to that of Vietnamese reunification. Although South Vietnam’s economy was almost exclusively dependent on USA for financial and military aid, it had developed strong industrial, agricultural, and manufacturing output and infrastructure, with trade relations with the West and Japan.  North Vietnam’s state-run economy had large collective farms, developed urban industrialization, and had trade relations with the Soviet Union and China. As a result, the income per capita ratio of South to North Vietnam was much higher than that of West to East Germany and may have been at a similar level to that of present-day South and North Korea, although South Korea’s current economy is much larger than that of South Vietnam’s in 1975.

KTX-Sancheon

At reunification, the state-controlled economy that had formerly run North Vietnam was extended into South Vietnam, which saw the dissolution of its capital and entrepreneurial institutions. This, along with a combined mass movement of North Vietnamese to the wealthier South and mass exodus of capital assets to USA, saw the South Vietnamese economy collapse, creating a period of economic decline for the entire country until the unified government began market socialist reforms in the late 1980s. Near reunification, North Vietnam had a greater population as compared to South Vietnam’s population. Nevertheless, the difference is of a much closer ratio than that of current North and South Korea.

DPRK_train

Hence, it is now hoped that after seeing the pros and cons of unification and the comparing of the German and Vietnamese reunifications, a unified Korea could have great implications for the balance of power in the region, with South Korea already considered by many a regional and a global power. Reunification would give access to cheap labour and abundant natural resources in the North, which, combined with existing technology and capital in the South, would create large economic and military growth potential. A unified Korea will become one of the most powerful countries of the world having a strong, advanced and a well balanced economy to feed its people.