India and Pakistan have both held an antagonistic streak against each other since their independence (Even though it can be argued that this sentiment was harbored ever since the idea of Pakistan was still in its nascent stage.). As both nations share several cultural roots and historical events along with several contemporary issues, it is pertinent for one to understand the factors that keep hindering the resolution of Indo-Pakistani conflicts.
An Uneasy Tryst
Even before the iconic speech ‘Tryst with Destiny’ was given to India’s Constituent Assembly by their upcoming Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, India formed another tryst, one with its partitioned neighbor, the nation that was created a day before the other gained independence. However, these nations with intertwining fates weren’t made to have any jovial bouts with one another, the same year they gained independence the first Indo-Pak war over Kashmir took place. Though both nations have almost always been antagonistic towards one another, their relations have recently stagnated, with extremely minimal contact taking place between the two countries. A few of the commentators have started calling it “The age of minimalism in India-Pakistan ties”. Here we will try to explore some of the major reasons that have hindered cooperation between the two countries.
Ever since the plea for the creation of Pakistan has been raised, the Indian National Congress, the dominant party at the time, opposed the idea vociferously. The idea of Pakistan gained popularity among the common Muslim population when All-India Muslim League was founded in 1906. The propagation of the Two-Nations theory (that India consists of two different ‘people’ – the Hindus and Muslims – which couldn’t co-exist in a single nation) and the Pakistan declaration (also called Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?) led to further promulgation.
Both the INC and the AI-ML were at the loggerheads over the creation of Pakistan even until the Cabinet Mission of 1946, which for a final time, tried to mediate between the two parties. After several deliberations and discussions, both parties were still at odds. Muhammad Ali Jinnah called for a ‘Direct Action Day’ which led to widespread communal riots leading to a death toll of about 4,000. All these events caused heightened polarization between these communities, to the effect that these events are still recounted to this day.
Kashmir has always been the chief issue between India and Pakistan, it is a complex and sensitive issue for both countries. Kashmir had a Muslim-majority population and a Hindu ruler who wanted to stay autonomous post-independence. However, after the independence, tribes from Pakistan tried to accede to the territory through violent means, the ruler went to India and signed an Instrument of Accession.
There have been several developments in Kashmir the most major one being the abrogation of Article 35A (Only ‘permanent residents of the state could buy property in the state along with other privileges provided to them) and Article 370 (Gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir) in 2019.
Pakistan condemned India and claimed that the removal of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was illegal, saying it would “exercise all possible options” to counter it, this was based on the fear that the move was designed to change the demographic makeup of India-administered Kashmir. India rebutted by saying that “A set of anachronistic provisions were not allowing the progress of Kashmir, the huge sum of money and resources which were going into the state wasn’t being optimized.”
Failure of SAARC
South Asia is seen as ‘one of the least integrated regions’ in the world (The World Bank 2017). To tackle this SAARC was founded in 1985, its primary goals included improving welfare and quality of life, and accelerating economic development, among others. This, however, didn’t come to pass, the organization has been fraught with problems ever since its inception. The rivalry and constant struggle for dominance between India and Pakistan have put several activities of the organization in stasis. Not only that, SAARC has mostly focused on formulating agreements on economic and social development, not on dispute resolution. Along with that several structural issues, the ‘centralized position of India’, and several unresolved disputes between the member states among other problems have led to SAARC being called an unnecessary organization.
Wars and Terrorist Attacks
Pakistan and India have fought three wars (1948, 1965, and 1971) and a battle (at Kargil 1998) and are currently in conflict over the possession of the Siachin Glacier (Since 1983). This has led to an unending arms race between the two countries, which also led both of the countries to become nuclear states in 1998. The logic of deterrence has prevailed since and has prevented the occurrence of any direct conflict between the two countries, the only exception being the battle at Kargil, no nuclear activity took place in the conflict.
Due to the nuclear deterrent, both of the nations now focus on covert sabotage, thus both India and Pakistan are seen frequently complaining about subterfuge by ISI or RAW. This has led to heightened mistrust between the two nations. The situation has aggravated due to several incidents in recent memory, the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, and blasts in 2 cabins of Samjhauta Express (The train was created in 1994 as a goodwill measure to help families reunite with their members that were separated during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition), terrorist attack in Mumbai killing 164 people in 2008, death of 40 Indian paramilitary members in Pulwama terrorist attack among several other events.
The problems India and Pakistan face are deeply rooted and embedded in their culture, attempts have been made to reach a mutual understanding, and both states have made several attempts to mollify mutual aggression and have signed some successful treaties. One of them is the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, which has been upheld to this day.
However, if the two nations are able to resolve their conflicts, it could easily lead to a golden age for both the nations. Not only that, it will be an extremely massive step towards South Asian co-operation, it could lead to the revitalization of SAARC. South Asia has immense potential of development, the social good done by the increased well-being of 2 billion people would not only bring about immediate improvements but also iterative compounding effects further down the line. Other than the overall material good, the resolution can act as a beacon to the rest of the world showing how conflicts so deeply rooted in culture and history can be resolved through level-headed actions.
Though, there might be no end in sight right now, both the nations can attempt to become mutually respectful by paving the path through mediation, rational dialogue, and mutual understanding along with decreasing political discourse – both nationally and internationally – that heightens polarization.
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