Moving the India-Pakistan Relationship Forward [1 of 2]


The war over Kashmir and the irreconcilable stance both nations have taken over it, has persistently defined the India-Pakistan relationship. The dispute over Kashmir completely dominates all bandwidth of communication between the neighbors. India takes the stand that Kashmir rightfully belongs to it, that Kashmir being mostly Muslim is beside the point because India is a secular country, and that the many Hindus that used to live in Kashmir have been driven out.
India has no official intention of allowing Kashmiris a referendum on whether they want to remain part of India or not. Underlying this obdurate position are the many bids for secession being made by other Indian states especially in the Northeast. To the Indian government, if they allow one state to secede, how will they prevent other states from leaving it also? Thus India has an inflexible and non-negotiable position on Kashmir.

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What war could ravish, commerce could bestow

And he returned a friend, who came a foe

— Alexander Pope

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PAKISTAN INDIA : CONFLICT TO COOPERATION

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by Mallika Paulraj

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India with over one billion people and Pakistan with 170 million, together constitute over one-fifth of the world’s population. The chronic tension between the two has swallowed vast quantities of resources that directly affect the quality of life of this large portion of humanity. Additionally, during the past one and a half decade, the growing threat of nuclear war between the two is a source of concern for the entire world.

This write up starts with a brief background on the Indo-Pak conflict, summarizes the current situation today, and relates the major problems that will need to be addressed to move towards peace. Next, it recapitulates international efforts that have historically helped alleviate similar stress between nations. Then it outlines a variety of diplomacy tools the world community can implement through its institutions of cooperation, such as multilateral intervention and promotion of economic interdependence on the part of India and Pakistan. Lastly, it lists immediate steps the global community can take to promote Indo-Pak interdependence.

Background

In 1947 British rule  ended on the South Asian subcontinent, resulting in the formation of two independent states: a Hindu majority India and a Muslim majority Pakistan. The princely state of Kashmir that straddled the arbitrarily drawn border between the new nations, contained a Muslim majority, and was allowed to choose which nation to join. Political wrangling put a Hindu ruler in charge of this decision, and he decided to join India. Both feeling that their share of the partition was unfair, the Indians and Pakistanis have been in conflict ever since, with rights over Kashmiri determination a focal point of their contentions.

Three major wars have been fought in 1948, 1965 and 1971. Tensions were greatly escalated by the testing of nuclear weapons by both countries in 1998. In 1999 the two fought over the barren Kargil pass at 9000ft, when India accused Pakistan of backing Islamic fundamentalist fighters from as far away as Chechnya to push back the Indians and create havoc along the line of control [Kargil 1999].

Another diplomatic conflagration followed on December 13, 2001 when allegedly Pakistani-supported terrorists entered the Parliament of India and attempted to violently take it over. This led to a near breaking of diplomatic ties between the nations, with both embassies scaling back staff.

The Current State of Affairs

The war over Kashmiri territory and the irreconcilable stance both nations have taken over it has persistently defined the India-Pakistan relationship. The dispute over Kashmir completely dominates all bandwidth of communication between the neighbors.

India takes the stand that Kashmir rightfully belongs to it, that Kashmir being mostly Muslim is beside the point because India is a secular country, and that the many Hindus that used to live in Kashmir have been driven out. India has no official intention of allowing Kashmiris a referendum on whether they want to remain part of India or not. Underlying this obdurate position are the many bids for secession being made by other Indian states especially in the Northeast.

To the Indian government, if they allow one state to secede, how will they prevent other states from leaving it also? Thus India has an inflexible and non-negotiable position on the Kashmir.

Pakistan on the other hand, defines itself by its conflict with India. It feels cheated out of its right to Kashmir. Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, and in all probability, had the people of Kashmir been given a choice in 1947, they would have chosen to accede to Pakistan instead of India.

Pakistan has already lost almost half its land area when East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh, a process abetted by the Indian military. Pakistan is vehement and uncompromising about its right to Kashmir and is actively pursuing this right.

The US and the world community are alert firefighters, rushing to intervene diplomatically when Indo-Pak relations start tipping towards the actively hostile. When the countries tested nuclear weapons (ineffective) sanctions were slapped on both, each time tensions escalate, international bodies commence gunboat diplomacy, and as the threat ebbs, international interest is withdrawn [Basrur 2002].

Unfortunately, so far very little has been done by world institutions of cooperation to promote economic interdependence, cultural education, academic dialogue, reestablishment of diplomatic formalities and other proven conflict diminishing political instruments.

Key Problems to Address

As stated above, the Indo-Pakistan conflict seems intractable with such firm stands on each side. Pakistan defines itself by its conflict with India. Significantly smaller than India in land area, population, resources and thus military power, Pakistan has poured much of its budget into defense / offense against India. It has even developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Indian aggression.


Pakistan has never truly been a democracy. No democratically elected government has finished a term in office in the nation’s fifty-five year history. Parliament is either dissolved and fresh elections are ordered, or a coup is staged, followed by the insertion of a military dictator.

India has also poured much of its resources as a nation into preparing to combat Pakistan instead of addressing its alarming levels of poverty and declining status in the world. A political economist has calculated that South Asia requires an investment of $8.6 billion per year for fifteen years to provide the population with universal primary education, basic healthcare, adequate nutrition and population growth control [Das 2000]. Diminishing the conflict between India and Pakistan is critical for the survival of their people.

Efforts to negotiate a peace between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have severe hurdles to face and the promise of resolution is faint. Instead of engaging each other only over the issue of Kashmir and defining their relationship by the conflict between the two, India and Pakistan should move towards cooperating on other issues such as trade and other mutually beneficial topics, in the hopes that eventually interdependence between the two will make Kashmir less relevant. There are many steps the world community can take by acknowledging the pertinacious issue of Kashmir, but still promoting cooperation on other fronts. Suggestions for cooperation are offered further into this paper. Once there is greater dimension to the Indo-Pakistan relationship than just Kashmir, the two states can hope to address their differences even over Kashmir.

Continued.

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