India-Pakistan: A Step ahead?


India-Pakistan: A Step ahead?

Asian Development BankAsian Development Bank

Ever since the partition in 1947, India’s relationship with Pakistan has been confrontational on several issues. Both the countries share similar religious, historical, cultural and humanitarian beliefs. The multi faceted relationship of the two countries is often guided by the factors that are embedded in history, politics and the geopolitical environment, which derails the peaceful co-existence.

The points of contention between the two countries are many which often serves as a reason of the jarring relationship. The main disputes are over water sharing, cross border infiltration, bombing at the line of control among others. However the major issue that causes distress between the two is of the Muslim dominated northern state of India, Jammu and Kashmir. Despite getting international attention time and again, till present there is no definite solution on Kashmir. In fact, the Kashmir issue has only escalated the conflict between the two countries and has been a crucial reason of going at war. There have been three major Indo-Pakistan wars between 1948 and 1971, which have aggravated the feeling of enmity between the two bordering countries.

Additionally, the conflict between India and Pakistan to establish a firm control over Kashmir has a dangerous outcome in the form of increasing terrorist activities in the region. Terrorist attacks on the Indian land, which are presumed to be sponsored by the Pakistani Jihadi groups, have constantly undermined the possibility of conflict resolution. It is assumed that Pakistan is a breeding ground for some of the leading terrorist organizations such as Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) Lakshar-e-Taiba (LET) and various others. According to the Indian understanding, Pakistan has also been financing some of the Kashmiri insurgent groups, which are responsible for the killings of a large number of civilians. India also holds Pakistan accountable for a series of terrorist attacks that have taken place on Indian soil among which, the Delhi parliamentary attack in 2001, Bangalore bombings in 2006 and Mumbai attacks of 2008 are the most controversial.

There has been a series of betrayals and broken promises on both sides, which obstructs efforts being made towards normalization of relationship. There is a sense of mutual distrust and insecurity on both the sides. However, countless attempts have been made for peace to prevail between the two neighbors.

Both the countries have tried to reach-out to each other on several occasions sometimes on their own and at other times being pressurized from international environment. Certainly not all proposals became a success but neither were they all a failure. Small but continuous efforts have been made for harmonizing the relations between the two.

The first initiative took place as early as 1966 and is popularly known as the Tashkent agreement, which laid out the most favorable outcome for both the sides after the 1965 war. This was followed by the Simla Agreement (1972), Agreement on Prohibition of attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities (1988), Agreement on Advance Notification on Military Exercises, Manoeuvres, Troop movement, Agreement on Prevention of Airspace Violation (1991). Furthermore, some momentous disputes were resolved by arbitration. For instance, the dispute over the division of rivers was resolved under the Indus Water Treaty of September 19, 1960 conciliated by the World Bank and the dispute over Runn of Kutch was resolved through International Arbitration under the Award of February 19, 1968.

In order to move a step ahead, the Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral in 1997 and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif introduced the idea of the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP). The Foreign Secretary level meeting of 1997 decided to constitute Joint Working Groups (JWGs) on eight issues that were causing distress between India and Pakistan. However, a major setback for CDP came during the 1999 Kargil war and the subsequent terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. The dialogue process was disrupted and the bilateral relations were yet again disturbed.

After more than two years of stagnation, the Composite Dialogue Process was revived in February 2004. This was possible only after the Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf assured Prime Minister Vajpayee that no territory under Pakistan‘s control would be allowed to use for any sort of terrorist activities against India.

The Dialogue Process consisted of Technical-level meetings, Joint Commission and Eight working groups, which form the basis for the structural official dialogue between India and Pakistan. The eight aspects discussed by the Dialogue Process platform were the: Siachen issue, Sir Creek issue, the Tulbal Navigation Project, terrorism & Drug Trafficking, economic & Commercial Cooperation and the promotion of Friendly Exchanges, Peace & Security Including Confidence Building Measures and Jammu& Kashmir issue.

The bilateral relations had improved as a result of this Dialogue process and both the countries adopted a comprising attitude. In 2006, India deployed the military troops from the Jammu and Kashmir region and an Indo-Pak institutional anti-terrorism mechanism was set up.

The progressing peace process between the two countries were halted by another terrorist attack in 2008, when armed gunmen opened fire Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the Oberoi Trident Hotel, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. Ever since the Mumbai attack, relationship between the two countries has gone bitter and the Indian government continues to take a stern line with Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan refuses to admit that the Mumbai attack was plotted from the Pakistani soil and has deferred from taking a stand on the issue.

The following years have seen increased cross border violations and continuous bomb shelling at the Indian side of the Line of Control. The situation has only gotten worst as time has passed by and the leaders on both the sides are reluctant to resolve the points of contention.

The new BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a road to form new allies across the world and to re-work India’s foreign policy. India and Pakistan both have nuclear capabilities and the proliferation of nuclear weapons have made improving relations even more necessary. Thus, PM Modi took the first step by inviting the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif for his swearing in ceremony. This initiative paved the way for a meeting between the Foreign Secretaries to work out terms for a dialogue, which had been stalled.

However, in 2014, the talks were called off once again after the Pakistan High Commissioner decided to meet with the Hurriyat leaders, a move which was not at all appreciated by the new government.

A few months after another effort was made during the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit meetings in Ufa in 2015 where the Indian side sought a bilateral meeting was crucial. This definitely turned out to be a constructive dialogue and was seen as an important step to end the Indo-Pak enmity. A Joint Statement was formulated and one of the resultant was the scheduling of the meeting between the two NSAs; various other decisions included meetings between the chiefs of the Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers and Director Generals of Military Operations; releasing fishermen in each other’s custody; facilitating religious tourism; and an agreement to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai trial. The agenda of the NSA talks was similar to the agenda crafted during 2004 but a wave of misunderstandings of verbiage in the agenda led to the cancellation of the scheduled discussion between the two counterparts.

Henceforth, with the new government coming to power, no substantial improvement has taken place. Both sides are continuously failing to reach a compromise that would have a productive resultant. It becomes a winning situation for only one country while the other remains dis-satisfied. Even though, PM Modi took two steps forward by persuading his Pakistani counterpart to resuscitate the peace dialogue, he has also gone four steps backwards as a result of the cancellation. Definitely, India has been subjected to another setback for its anti-terror agenda and will continue to face a threatening environment from its neighboring country.

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