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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