A Short History Of The Tension Between India And Pakistan

By Adarsh Badri:

In an interview with Dawn, Sudheendra Kulkarni said that Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted Indo-Pak relations to be on the lines of the United States of America and Canada. And here in India, Mahatma Gandhi also wanted both nations to have cordial relations. In all likelihood, neither Jinnah nor Gandhi ever wanted the nations to become arch-rivals.

The violence that accompanied partition was partly fed by Hindu extremists, the Muslim League and other Sikh extremist groups. However, none of the parties took responsibility for the chaos that was created. Women and children were kidnapped and raped from the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities, and the war that accompanied independence also triggered hatred within both the countries at large.

After four wars and 69 years since the partition, it is very much evident that India and Pakistan cannot just survive as friends. For decades, Indians have accused Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism. And Pakistan has accused India of supporting ethnic separatism on its soil, mainly in Balochistan.

India and Pakistan fought the first war in 1947-48 over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, a state with a Muslim majority population and ruled then by a Hindu king Hari Singh. The war started after armed tribesmen from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province invaded Kashmir in October 1947. And the war ended on January 1, 1949, after both parties agreed to a ceasefire arranged by the United Nations.

Years later, in 1965, India and Pakistan fought another bloody war, with both sides suffering severe losses and citizens having to relocate. The war of 1965 left India and Pakistan seeing each other as more than enemies. In 1970, Yahya Khan (Military General) organised Pakistan’s first direct election, only to find that Bengalis from East Pakistan voted overwhelmingly for Awami League and this was unacceptable to the military. The leaders of the Awami League were put under house arrest and this triggered a civil war in East Pakistan.

Many refugees fled to India for shelter and Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian troops to attack the Eastern Wing of Pakistan’s Army. The result of the war was a clear and major victory for the Indian government and military. Pakistan lost a large portion of its territory and 93,000 Pakistanis were taken in as prisoners of war. Bangladesh was created.

Simla Conference of 1972 was all about India and Indira Gandhi. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to negotiate in the Simla Conference. Many experts claim till date that Indira had a better chance of resolving the Kashmir issue during the Simla Conference. After two major wars in 1965 and 1971, Pakistan’s populace and its army exacerbated anti-India sentiments. Soon after the Lahore bus visit in February 1999, Pakistani troops crossed Line of Control in Kargil. However, to the Pakistan army, it was a big humiliation after India retaliated by sending its air force to vacate the captured posts. Why is it that we hate each other so much? What makes both countries enemies? And what are the possible solutions?

For Pakistan, Kashmir is an unresolved and unfinished business of the partition. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the UNGA in September 2015 said, “Since 1947, the Kashmir dispute has remained unresolved.” And then he talked about the oppression of the Kashmiri population. Frankly speaking, these words made headlines in Pakistan’s mainstream media. And it was hardly mentioned anywhere else in the world. Kashmir has always been one of the main reasons for contention between both countries.

The proliferation of Pakistani based jihadi groups  such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, JeM, and their attacks on Indians have caused more harm to Pakistan than to India. The frequent infiltration of terrorists in India has been responsible for Pakistan to lose out on allies. Hillary Clinton warned, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually, those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.”

Terrorism has always been a matter of concern for India and to the rest of the world. LeT’s alleged attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 resulted in both nations preparing and assembling their troops along the border. And later in 2008, Mumbai attacks led to the killing of 166 people and caused worldwide condemnations of the terror attacks by Pakistan based militant organisations.

The Mujahaideen was formed in Pakistan to drive Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the 1980s and they eventually succeeded in 1989. The Afghan jihad, which came to Pakistan, brought substantial amounts of money, weapons and fighters from the USA and other European nations, which were used to allegedly support the movement for Khalistan.

Now, both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. And India has already signed a civil nuclear treaty with the USA. India’s nuclear programme is not due to the regional rivalry, but the argument that non-proliferation should be global. This means that either no one should possess nuclear weapons or everyone should have access to them.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s nuclear policy is clearly based on the hypothetical threat of India’s nuclear power. After helping build Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, A. Q. Khan went on to sell nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. Another important figure in Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Dr. S. Mubarakmand, boasted in public, of Pakistan’s ability to “wipe out India from the subcontinent in few seconds.”

Now that both countries are nuclear powers, it is difficult to choose war as an option, unless we choose to wipe out large sections of the population. The future of India-Pakistan relations is far from certain. The issues of Kashmir and cross-border terrorism will remain a major setback for the relations and will continue to hamper the relations with India. How long will this tension last?


Image Source: Stefan Krasowski/ Flickr

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