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
Since achieving independence in 1947, the relations between India and Pakistan have been such that the talks of trade, cooperation and peace have often taken place parallel to the threats of war. They have fought four wars and on more than one occasion mobilised their militaries with a credible threat of war. Since the early 1990s, the insurgency in Kashmir and terrorist incidents in other parts of India have affected bilateral relations in a profound way. Serious terrorist attacks in India causing huge loss of life, such as the Mumbai bombings in 2005 and Mumbai attacks in 2008, have often led to the loss of public support for dialogue with Pakistan. Groups targeting the peace process between India and Pakistan have exploited this reality to the extent of setting up a trend. For the past few years almost every Indo-Pakistan peace initiative has been followed by a terrorist attack.
Consequently, the India-Pakistan debates have been led by belligerent minds, regularly perpetuating the negative narratives that have demonised the enemy and created virtuous self-images. The conflict environment ridden with regular violent incidents has further fuelled such negative narratives, creating a self-sustaining vicious cycle of mistrust, bellicosity and conflict. As a result, a positive cycle of mutual trust, confidence building, peace and stability between the two states, could never gain any foothold.
This article analyses the pattern in which the conflict is evolving since the beginning of this century. It highlights two important factors: the limited military options available to India after the appearance of nuclear weapons and the internal turmoil in Pakistan, which have played an important role in shaping the conflict environment in South Asia. It primarily argues that belligerent attitudes and actions of the past century may not be applicable anymore. Indians and Pakistanis have developed very stereotypical attitudes towards each other, which are rigid and cannot change in a short period. However, as this article makes the case, that given the way the conflict environment is evolving, both Indians and Pakistanis may be forced to rethink their attitudes and change the narratives that perpetuate bitterness and enmity towards each other.
India: Treading the Conflict Terrain – Not a Stroll Anymore
They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. However, when the going gets dangerous, the tough should ‘rethink his options’. After all, there is a very thin line between being ‘brave’ and being ‘foolish’. There was a time when the Indian Army could march a few kilometres inside Pakistani territory and threaten cities such as Lahore and Sialkot; or the Indian Navy could lay a blockade around Pakistan’s only port city Karachi and totally cut of naval and commercial traffic. This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. The times have certainly changed and both sides have a subtle realisation of this fact.
Nuclear weapons and multiple delivery systems have shaped the environment in such a way that any armed conflict now possesses an inherent risk of escalation to a nuclear exchange. Furthermore, the stability in deterrence is questionable because the nuclear thresholds are undefined and a vast difference of perception exists on both sides.
India believes that space exists for a limited conflict where, if the need arises, doctrines such as ‘Cold Start’ can be executed, drawing the Pakistani army into battle and destroying its war fighting capability. India’s stand rests on the premise that while nuclear rhetoric is a good way to build and sway public opinions, empirically speaking the truth and action have generally sided with rationality and pragmatism. Sir Lawrence Freedman (2003) in his book The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy rightly states that due to the destructive power of (even low yield) nuclear weapons, ‘when it comes to actual nuclear war planning, all hawks suddenly become doves’.
Pakistan, on the other hand (and despite the above), has adopted a nuclear posture based on Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs), short-range missiles and a highly advertised ‘first-use’ policy, keeping the red lines vague. Scholars claim that the main aim of this posture is to draw immediate international attention and mediation in case of a crisis and prevent it from escalation to any kind of armed conflict.
While this debate carries on, it seems that the ‘existential deterrence’ has played its role by having a deep impact on the belligerent attitudes, especially of the Indian policy making circles. This is evident from the responses – both actual and rhetorical – to the five major terrorist incidents that occurred during the past fifteen years, as discussed below.
When five terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked the Indian Parliament building on 13 December 2001, the Home Minister of India LK Advani clearly pointed a finger at the ‘neighbouring country and the terrorist organisation active there’. By the time the Kaluchak attacks happened on 14 May 2002, in which 31 soldiers and their families were killed by terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Indian army had already been mobilised and the army units were sitting in battle formations awaiting final orders to go to war. A week later while addressing the soldiers posted in Kashmir, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee asked them to ‘be prepared for a decisive battle’. The situations de-escalated after Pakistan, under pressure from the United States, made gestures of reigning in the militant groups and their leaders.
After the Mumbai attacks on 26 November 2008, India’s then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated that India may indulge in military strikes against the training camps of terrorist outfits in Pakistan. India did not mobilise its troops. Pakistan moved its troops towards the border, albeit only briefly, which were withdrawn after few days of talks. In a recent talk at King’s College London, Siddharth Varadarajan, a senior Indian journalist, mentioned that immediately after the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government did seek options from the military, only to be told that there were none.
On 27 July 2015 three terrorists attacked a bus and a police station in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, killing seven people. The only information that the investigating agencies could gather was that the terrorists were ‘Muslim’ and they seemed to have come from Pakistan, extracting data from the GPS recovered from them, which did not show any waypoints beyond the border. The case, besides lacking sufficient evidence to hold any particular organisation or state responsible, received an unusual media lacklustre in India.
Most recently on 02 January 2016, terrorists attacked the Air Force Station in Pathankot with an aim of targeting India’s ‘high-value assets’, such as helicopters and aircrafts parked in the station. An operation that lasted nearly three days resulted in all six terrorists dead along with seven security personnel and a civilian. The Indian intelligence agencies linked the terrorists to Jaish-e-Mohammed, based on the evidence tracked from the phone calls and GPS. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, blamed the ‘enemies of humanity, who could not digest India’s progress’. Home Minister Rajnath Singh did say that ‘if there is any terror attack on India, we will give a befitting reply’, albeit only after saying that ‘Pakistan is our neighbouring country. We want good relations not only with Pakistan but with all our neighbours’. Almost all debates on the news channels and editorials of newspapers in India pursued the theme that the terrorist attacks should not derail the peace process between the two countries.
These five major terrorist attacks in India (that had originated in Pakistan) show us the changing conflict terrain in nuclearized South Asia during the last two decades. India’s response changed from mobilising the army and keeping it in battle ready formations, which also had an inherent risk of ‘accidental’ start of a war in 2002-03, to a simple rhetoric of blaming the ‘enemies of humanity’ in 2016.
This implies that the space for an armed conflict in South Asia has definitely reduced. This has forced the leaders, especially Indian, to take less belligerent stances as they are incapable of fulfilling their promises of ‘befitting replies’ due to limited military options. This, in turn, has paved the way for diplomatic dialogues, both official and unofficial, as a breakdown of diplomacy leaves no option other than military action.
On the other side of the border in Pakistan, terrorism and sectarian violence that has killed more than 50,000 people and cost the economy about $78 billion since 2001, has forced its leaders to look inwards, taking away their focus from the traditional ‘Indian threat’.
Pakistan: The Internal Turmoil – Blaming India Does Not Help Anymore
Since Independence, the Pakistani state has used a number of issues – unequal distribution of resources during partition, accession of Kashmir, division of water, loss of East Pakistan, unrest in Baluchistan – to develop a narrative of an ‘existential threat’ posed by India.
However, after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Pakistan’s participation in the global war on terror changed the security situation drastically. Militant groups, some of them nurtured and supported by the Pakistani state for its own goals, became self-sustaining in terms of funding and recruitment. Over a period, the groups splintered and some of them turned against the state. During the last two years or so, the Islamic State or Daesh has made its presence felt in the Af-Pak region attracting many fighters from the older groups.
Even the groups dormant within Pakistan such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toyiba, which were sometimes referred to as good terrorists, have started showing signs of rebellion. For instance, Masood Azhar, the Jaish-e-Mohammad founder sought by India for the Pathankot and other attacks, has threatened retaliation if Pakistan shuts down terrorist groups operating against India. The civilian and military leadership in Pakistan fully comprehends that the Salafist ideology pursued by these groups is a threat to the ‘idea of Pakistan’. The capture of Swat Valley by Taliban in 2007 and 2009; the Lal Masjid operation in 2007; the Peshawar School massacre in December 2014; the Safoora Goth bus attack in 2015; and the Bacha Khan University attack in January 2016 are stark reminders of this fact.
Consequently, the change in narrative seems inevitable and is slowly becoming visible. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the threat from an internal enemy is dominating the so-called external threat from India. Prominent voices in the media, even those who have been traditionally anti-India, have acknowledged that ‘it was time for tough questions instead of blaming India’.
The task of improving relations with India, however, is not easy and there is still a lot of ground to cover. The state power in Pakistan is shared by the civil government, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the military under the army chief Raheel Sharif. Traditionally, Pakistan’s military has dominated the security and foreign policy, which has been predominantly anti-India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, has been known for his friendly inclinations towards India.
Pakistan’s government approved its ‘National Internal Security Policy 2014-2018’ (NISP) to deal with the growing menace of terrorism and extremism, in 2014. Its operationalization is still pending. However, it reflects the mind-set of the civil government and the narratives that it wishes to pursue, quite clearly. It was summarised in media as follows:
‘…perhaps the most important aspect of NISP is that it offers the first integrated sweep of the challenges and solutions from a civilian perspective. This is a radical departure from the frustratingly oversimplified military-defined threats facing ‘Islamic Pakistan’ from obscure or imagined sources based outside Pakistan rather than the internal threats that the NISP focuses on. […] NISP is not just a first by being a clear civilian perspective on a turf traditionally dominated by the security establishment but also bold in its diagnosis in policy articulation. […] it is a big step forward in weaning control of the narrative that defines the purpose of the state as being in service of its subjects rather than vice versa.’
Soon after the adoption of NISP, Nawaz Sharif’s authority was weakened by the military sponsored protests led by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri in August 2014. In this light, the Army’s resistance to having peaceful relations with India is a huge hindrance for Nawaz Sharif.
Nawaz Sharif has a long history of conflict with the State’s army – After having served as the Chief Minister of Punjab he became Prime Minister for two short tenures in the 1990s, only to be ousted from power in a military coup, jailed and then exiled for nearly seven years, finally making a comeback 2013. The army chief’s announcement to retire in November 2016 probably comes at the right time for Nawaz Sharif. It gives him an opportunity to select the person who is in accord with his own aspirations. In his walk across the military’s tight rope, other institutions such as the judiciary, civil society and the entrepreneurial élite, are likely to take his side in times when the Army does not seem to be able to provide the security inside the country.
While Pakistan military’s anti-India rhetoric seems uncompromising, there are minor indicators signalling change in its mind-set. It is claimed that the closest that India and Pakistan got to resolving the Kashmir dispute was during Musharraf’s last years in power, just before he was ousted. Both India and Pakistan had made huge progress on the four-point formula that Musharraf had suggested, a strategy likely in line with the Army through which Musharraf himself rose. Speaking in 2013, Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood of the Pakistan Army stated that the military understands very well that ‘a continued stand-off with India only hurts us economically and also leads to a loss of our leverage with both India and the West’.
Both Indians and Pakistanis belong to a rigid culture where, more often than not, self-realisation has worked better than coercion. It is pertinent for India to realise that the use of force, which also comes with an inherent risk of self-destruction, will not coerce any self-respecting neighbour to change its course, even for its own good. The change is evident in India’s evolving responses discussed above as well as in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regular engagements with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Similarly, in Pakistan, realisation of the fact that a continuous belligerent stance with India and the consequent policies it pursues, is causing more damage to Pakistani social, political and economic fabric seems to be dawning upon the Pakistani public and its elites.
Imagine a conflict environment spectrum ranging from low belligerency to high. Let us say that the belligerents live in a certain comfort zone where the collateral damage is not too high and acceptable; hence, they refuse to shift their positions (bellicose narratives and mind-sets). However, over a period, the conflict environment reconfigures itself, pushing the belligerents to that part of the spectrum where collateral damage becomes too high and unacceptable. This forces them to either change their attitudes or suffer destruction. A process strikingly similar to this is underway in South Asia.