The Indo-Pak Story: Counting Down Conflicts

Posted on July 20, 2010 in Politics at Play

By Tania Goklany:

Nick Robins in his book ‘The Corporation that changed the World’ mentions “Independence of course was a necessary starting point, for release but one that needed to be supplemented by further action to deal with the bitter lessons of empire”. One of the prolonging effects of being conquered by the ‘Great’ Britain was the beginning of disturbed relations with the neighboring country Pakistan. These two nations have been to four wars since the partition in 1947 maintaining diplomatic relations since then.

The ‘two-nation theory’ proposed by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah gave way to the formation of the two sovereign nations – India and Pakistan. After this inevitable partition, the world witnessed the largest transfer of people from one nation to another in which about half a million people were killed. This was known as ‘The First Kashmir War’. Maharaja Hari Singh had the choice of acceding either with Pakistan or India. The biggest dilemma was that he had himself was a Hindu and had a majority of Muslim population in his state. Finally he signed the Instrument of Accession joining India. This particular state/province still remains divided between the two countries by the Line of Control (LOC) which demarcates the ceasefire line agreed upon in this conflict.

The next Indo-Pak war took place in 1965 after the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ carried out by the Pakistanis which was designed to send in forces into India in order to raise a revolt against the rule by the Indians in Kashmir. The Indian Government retaliated by attacking Pakistan. It was the largest tank battle in the history of wars after the World War II which ended with the intervention of United Nations demanding a ceasefire which led to the subsequent issuance of Tashkent Declaration.

Kashmir was spared the limelight in the next war which took place in the year 1971. It was hastened by the tensions building up in East Pakistan. India decided to intervene in the Bangladeshi Liberation /movement on humanitarian grounds. Within two weeks of fighting Pakistan surrendered subsequent to which Bangladesh was formed. This war saw the largest number of casualties as well as prisoners of war.

The next one was the famous Kargil War in which the Pakistani men infiltrated the LOC and occupied Indian Territory mostly in the Kargil region. Due to Indian military advances and increasing foreign diplomatic pressure, Pakistan was forced to withdraw its forces back across the LOC.

One of the first efforts taken towards normalization of relations was to sign the Simla Agreement by which it was decided that 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.”Diplomatic and trade relations were also re-established in 1976. The Indo-Pak relations have also been strenuous due to the Pakistan arms purchase, US military aid to Pakistan and a secret nuclear weapon program. But in the year 1988 Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi signed a pact promising that they would not attack each other’s nuclear facilities. The dispute over Kashmir remains a major stumbling block in the ‘peace talks’ that have ensued since then in June 1997, September 1997 and May 1998.

Terrorism is a systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. The Indians and Pakistanis have witnessed this use of violent coercion by militant groups and political pressures by the Governments in the name of diplomatic relations and peace ties which have never lead anywhere. Kalhana in his book Rajatarangini says “such is Kashmir, the vale which may be conquered by forces of spiritual love and not by armed might”. But what has followed over these years is only to the contrary. The biggest jolt received by the Indian citizens was the attack on Mumbai in 2008 and the admission by the government of Pakistan that the terrorist attacks on the Indian metropolis of Mumbai in November 2008 were indeed committed by Pakistani Islamists offers a thin ray of hope. This proves that even after so many years and after ad nauseum talks of peace not much has been achieved avert terrorist attack like these.

Irfan Hussain, a leading Pakistani newspaper columnist, recently bemoaned that “Pakistan was the only country in the world that negotiates with a gun to its own head. Our argument goes something like this: If you don’t give us what we need, the government will collapse and this might result in anarchy, and a takeover by Islamic militants. Left unstated here is the global risk these elements would pose as they would have access to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.” A state which threatens to explode and destroy everyone else on the planet unless it is pampered is akin to a suicide bomber whose message to his enemies is to change their policies “or else”. Even American interventions and call for ‘restraint’ call for restraint and ‘political settlement’ have served no one’s interest.

Despite all these conflicts and broken down talks there have been incidences in the past which have given a tiny ray of hope to the citizens of both these countries who are the actual survivors and sufferers in these conflicts. In 2001, after the Gujarat Earthquake President Pervez Musharaff sent a truckload of relief supplies to India. Also, the President called the Indian PM to express ‘sympathy’ over the loss suffered by the disaster. Also, India offered generous aid to Pakistan in response to the 2005 Earthquake. After Manmohan Singh become prime minister of India the Punjab provincial Government declared it would develop Gah, his place of birth, as a model village in his honor and name a school after him. There is also a village in India named Pakistan, despite occasional pressure over the years to change its name the villagers have resisted. Launched in 1976 the “Samjhauta Express” served as the only rail connection between the two countries. But the terrorist attack on the Samjhauta Express in 2007 shook both the countries and was condemned by them.

India took the initiative to resume dialogue with Pakistan for the first time after the Mumbai attack.The last dialogue, and the first after the attack, was scheduled for 15th of July between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries. Before the meeting the Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna announced “I bring with me the warm greetings of the people of India for the well-being of the people of Pakistan” adding that he brought “best wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and stable Pakistan”, left lingering hope in the minds of both the Governments of a better and more peaceful future.

While the harsh reality is that we seem to be hoping too high for the two neighbour countries to cooperate and live in peace and harmony. It was a war of words between India and Pakistan with the Foreign Ministers’ meet between the neighbours not achieving much breakthrough. A day after the diplomatic talks happened, the Pakistan Foreign Minister has launched a personal attack on S M Krishna, alleging he was getting directives from Delhi and that India is not ready for talks. What should India do now? Should it end dialogue with Pakistan? Are Indo-Pak talks back to square one? Has the trust deficit widened after the meeting?

Image courtesy: http://www.amankiasha.info/articles/indo-pak-odi-xi-a-match-winner-for-all-times/

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