Any idea of a United India could never have worked and in my judgement it would have led us to terrific disaster.
These were the words of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation of Pakistan. The partition of United India after Nehru vehemently rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 and the unrelenting support of a separate homeland for the Muslims by Jinnah was inevitable.
In the period of 14-15 August 1947, two new nations emerged in the South Asian region which ever since their conception, have maintained cold relations with each other.
Although on the surface, both the countries have taken actions to show the world that the ties between the nations had been gradually improving, but unfortunately, the essence of this relation has remained hostile for a long time now.
The two ex-British dominions had adopted democracies with India becoming the Democratic Republic of India and Pakistan rechristening themselves as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Both the nations have achieved great heights and tasted success in various aspects of competition as well as have suffered equally in same terms.
To be able to understand the future of the relationship between these two nations, it is important for us to analyse the story so far in three major fields which both the nations take an active participation- Polity, military and social.
Political, strategic and diplomatic relationship between India and Pakistan
Provided the history of both the countries, the political relationship between them has been very complex and largely hostile. The constant military conflicts at the western border have been prevalent ever since the violent partition in 1947.
Even though the region on either sides of the Line-of-Control share similar demographic characteristics like language (Punjabi) and cuisine inherited by the Mughal Empire, there exist an air of doubt and suspicion amongst the two nations.
The first sign of hostility took place immediately after the countries declared themselves independent of the Colonial rule. Riots and communal clashes plagued both the nations as Hindus and Muslims were mercilessly slaughtered by each other.
Millions of Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan and Muslims from India migrated across the border making it one of the largest community migrations of the modern era. Both the newly formed Dominions accused each other of not providing enough facilities or working for the welfare of the minorities within their jurisdiction.
The Junagadh issue fanned the flames of resentment between India and Pakistan. While the ruling Nawab had signed the instrument of accession to Pakistan, the Indian diplomats were not happy with the developments as the majority of the population of Junagadh were Hindus.
The Indian government gave Pakistan an ultimatum to void the accession and hold a plebiscite. All supplies were cut off from Junagadh and troops were moved in upon Pakistan’s protests. On November 9, 1947, Junagadh was annexed and a plebiscite was held which ultimately favoured for India to take over the territory.
As soon as Junagadh issue was resolved, the next target of Pakistan was Kashmir. The region was then ruled by Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, who had decided to remain as an independent monarchical dominion, not joining Pakistan or India.
But Pakistan assaulted the princely state trying to take control forcibly. This is when the Maharaja turned to India for help. The Indian leaders promised help only if the King signed the instrument of accession and made Jammu and Kashmir a part of the Union of Inida. Maharaja Hari Singh agreed and the Indian troops were moved in who successfully thwarted Pakistan’s attempt to capture Kashmir.
But this issue was not solved yet as Kashmir became the go-to for all the conflicts that were to follow between the countries.
Another issue that arose out of geographical jurisdiction was the Indus river systems. The Source Rivers of the Indus water system were all situated in India which made Pakistan insecure about the water resources. During the first years of partition, the waters of the Indus were apportioned by the Inter-Dominion Accord of May 4, 1948.
This accord required India to release sufficient waters to the Pakistani regions of the basin in return for annual payments from the government of Pakistan.
However, neither side was willing to compromise their respective positions nor negotiations reached a stalemate. Finally, with the interference of the World Bank, the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 was struck upon to curb conflicts between the nations which divided the control over the rivers to India and Pakistan.
With the dawn of 1970s, India had engaged in another war with Pakistan which was fought for the liberation of Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan. But after this war, both the countries started to work towards normalisation of relations to re-establish peace and regional stability in the sub-continent.
The Simla Agreement of 1972 under which India would return all Pakistani personnel (over 90,000) and captured territory in the west, and the two countries would “settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations”, was signed by the Prime Ministers of both nations.
Diplomatic and trade relations were also re-established in 1976. By 1990s, the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India met twice and the foreign secretaries conducted three rounds of talks. In June 1997, the foreign secretaries identified eight “outstanding issues” around which continuing talks would be focused.
The conflict over the status of Kashmir, an issue since Independence, remains the major stumbling block in their dialogue. Attempts to restart dialogue between the two nations were given a major boost by the February 1999 meeting of both Prime Ministers in Lahore and their signing of three agreements.
A subsequent military coup in Pakistan that overturned the democratically elected Nawaz Sharif government in October of the same year also proved a setback to relations.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to restart peace talks, the nations finally met in 2004, with a new government in place in India, both countries agreed to extend a nuclear testing ban and to set up a hotline between their foreign secretaries aimed at preventing misunderstandings that might lead to a nuclear war.
Yet cross-border terrorism has not stopped as India continues to blame Pakistan for harbouring terrorist outfits that have caused damage to life and property on this side of the border. Insurgency and separatist mentality has continued for ages leading to martyrdom of hundreds of soldiers of our armed forces and death of equal number of civilians.
The 2001 Parliament attacks by Jaish-e-Mohammad, the 2008 Mumbai attack conducted by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the attacks on armed forces in Uri and Pathankot in 2016 and the most recent Pulwama massacre in 2019- Even though Pakistan has claimed to have no hand in these attacks, it has been time and again made evident by India that the Islamic nation has been the safe-haven of the responsible terrorists of these dastardly attacks.
Additionally, India and Pakistan are also locked in a case in the ICJ, Hague on the Sarabjit case. Even in the UN, China, an all-weather ally of Pakistan has been blocking India’s bid to list Masood Azhar, the face of JeM terrorist faction, as a global terrorist under the 1267 Al-Qaeda sactions committee.
With the cross-border terrorism still intact, the Indian government had taken harsh steps to deal with it. The strictest of them was banning Pakistani players from the home grown Indian Premier League of Cricket as well as artists.
As of 2019, India has also revoked the Most Favoured Nation status of Pakistan and has levied heavy import duties on the already cash starved country. Although Pakistan is still rooting for peace talks to renew diplomatic ties with India, the latter is convinced that stringent measures are necessary to improve the current situation.
As a result, India has been tightening its grip over Sarabjit’s case and pro-actively pursuing Azhar’s listing as a global terrorist. The counter-offensive strategy is yielding results too as of May 2019, Azhar had been finally listed as a global terrorist by the UNSC.
Military relationship between India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan have so far fought four full-scale wars other than frequent border skirmishes and proxy war that has been waging for decades now. The wars fought so far have worked in favour of India, although both the sides had faced heavy casualties and loss of economic growth in the aftermath.
All the conflicts had arisen out of political tension and border disputes. Of recent, India has been conducting specialised strikes as an answer to the cross-border terrorist activities that have occurred on the Indian soil.
The first war that the nations went to was in the same year when they became independent as mentioned in the previous section. Pakistan had launched Operation Gulmarg which aimed to capture Kashmir and bring the princely state of J&K under the Pakistani dominion.
The Pakistani army teamed with the tribal militia, successfully invaded the borders of J&K and were raiding and looting villages that they had captured. Before they could reach Srinagar, Maharaja Hari Singh realised the gravity of the situation following which, acceded the territory of J&K to India. Immediately, India launched Operation Vijay to counter the tribes.
The tribal forces were pushed back and many of the regions were recaptured. Finally, the UN intervened and called for a ceasefire, urging Pakistan to withdraw all its troops and tribes and allowed India to maintain minimum military presence. Indians lost about 1,000 soldiers and triple the amount wounded, while Pakistan incurred 6,000 casualties with 14,000 being grievously wounded.
The next war that ravaged the nations was in mid-1965. The war lasted 17 days with thousands of casualties on both the sides. India was recuperating from a defeat in the hands of China from the 1962 Chinese aggression, when Pakistan decided to launch Operation Gibraltar.
The goal was to infiltrate the Indian borders and make it porous for insurgency in the Indian rule. India retaliated with a full-scale military war with West Pakistan. The war also saw one of the biggest tank battles since World War 2 and use of Navy and Air Force. A ceasefire was called by the US and Soviet Union in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and it lasted till 1971.
The third conflict arose when India decided to help liberate the Bengalis in East Pakistan from the reign of terror of the West Pakistanis. The Bengali Revolution declared East Pakistan free from the state rule of West Pakistan under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.
Pakistan had conducted Operation Searchlight to curb the Bengali nationalist movement, after which, India decided to intervene. India trained the Bengali Mukti Bahini rebels to eradicate their tyrant from the state and become a fully independent nation.
Pakistan in retaliation, attacked India’s western front again at multiple regions, but the Indian forces defended them successfully and even went ahead and captured important cities and regions of Pakistan. Finally, on 16 December 1971, Pakistan signed the instrument of surrender.
A few months later, the Shimla Agreement was struck under which the Indian Armed Forces released 90,000 Pakistani troops and withdrew troops from 15,010 square kilometres of Pakistani territories as a gesture of goodwill.
The final full-scale war so far is famously referred to as the Kargil War. During the harsh winters, the Pakstani army infiltrated the LoC and occupied important posts in Kargil. India immediately launched the counter-offensive retaking the posts over a period of two years.
Many soldiers were matyred in this attempt as victory came with a huge cost to India. The war weakened both the economies, with Pakistan taking a major blow. Due to international pressure and threat of facing isolation, Pakistan withdrew its troops from the Indian soil and bitterly conceded defeat.
Ever since then, time and again the Pakistan forces have indulged in firing and shelling across the border which has led to multiple occasions of ceasefire violations. The terror groups too have been a major problem for India. They have infiltrated the borders and attacked Indian army camps and military stations.
Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama are the worst examples of this. But the Indian security and armed forces have answered these attacks with equally devastating blows on the terror organisations. The surgical strikes of 2016 saw the Indian Army special forces infiltrate the Pakistani border and neutralise multiple terror bases of the outfit that was responsible for the Uri attack.
Three years later, the Indian Air Force successfully conducted air strikes in Balakot, infiltrating the Pakistani airspace and dropping explosive payloads on the largest terror base of the accused terrorist outfit. Although Pakistan denies this, but many third party sources validate the strike.
In a follow up, the Pakistan Air Force scrambled F-16s to attack the Indian territory which were successfully intercepted by the Indian Air Force. Both the sides incurred loss of one fighter plane each with India losing a 2nd generation Mig-21 Bison and Pakistan losing a much more advance F-16 fighter. Pakistan had captured the pilot of the Mig-21 Bison, but had released him as a goodwill gesture.
Social ties between India and Pakistan
While military and diplomatic relations have remained bitter ever since the two neighbours came into existence, the social front has remained comparatively warmer and much more tolerant. Even though hate mentality is visible amongst the common diaspora of the nations, the overwhelming wish of peace and healthy relations between the countries acts as the voice of reason and drowns the hate in the minds of the people.
This stems from the fact that there are a lot of similarities in the social elements of Pakistan and India. Northern India and Pakistan arise from the same Indo-Aryan heritage due to which they have similar language and cuisine. Historically, the two nations share a lot in common.
Pakistani singers, musicians, comedians and entertainers have enjoyed widespread popularity in India, with many achieving overnight fame in the Indian film industry Bollywood. Likewise, Indian music and film are very popular in Pakistan. Being located in the northernmost region of the South Asia, Pakistan’s culture is somewhat similar to that of North India, especially the northwest.
Relations between Pakistan and India have also resumed through platforms such as media and communications. Aman ki Asha is a joint venture and campaign between The Times of India and the Jang Group calling for mutual peace and development of diplomatic and cultural relations.
In terms of sports, Cricket and hockey matches between the two have often been political in nature. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan General Zia-ul Haq travelled to India for a bout of “cricket diplomacy” to keep India from supporting the Soviets by opening another front.
Pervez Musharaff also tried to do the same more than a decade later but to no avail. In tennis, Rohan Bopanna of India and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan have formed a successful duo and have been dubbed as the “Indo-Pak Express.”
Both the countries have time and again set examples of harmony and tolerance with each other in various occasions. The fact that there still exist roads that connect the countries, the Wagah Border to be more specific, as well as airways still intact, gives us hope that all is not lost to establish peace between the nations.
Although the current situation is a tense stand-off between the two democracies, but such a rocky relation has been existing for decades now with frequent bilateral as well as multilateral talks to restore the stability between the nations.
Hence, no matter how bleak the situation might be, as the citizens of the Indian sub-continent, we should never lose hope of a peaceful future and continue working towards it.