by Tenzin Tsultrim, ( Ph.D. Student in Department of Indian History, University of Madras.)
The present relation between India and Pakistan looks promising despite
its history of conflicts and hostilities which has overshadowed the peace
process. The recent visit of Pakistan foreign minister, Hina Rabbani to
India, followed by the meeting between the Indian Prime Minister, Dr.
Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousaf Raza Gilnai on
the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Addu city of Maldives, on 10
November 2011, may give the impression of growing positive engagement
between the two neighbours. This relation was further strengthened when
Pakistan decided in-principle, to give India the Most Favoured Nation
status (MFN). However, one cannot, all of sudden, forget the past history
and make haste in writing the new chapter in Indo-Pak relations.
In what follows, an attempt has been made to highlight the main
factors which are likely to play most vital roles in determining the relation
between India and Pakistan, in the future.
The Kashmir issue
Among all the factors, the issue of Kashmir remains the defining factor
which can either bring breakthrough or breakdown in the dialogue between
India and Pakistan. For Pakistan, Kashmir formed the letter ‘K’ and hence
without Kashmir, Pakistan is incomplete. India, on its part, claimed that
(PoK) Pakistan occupied Kashmir is a legitimate part of the Indian Union
after Kashmir’s accession to India. This conflict has lasted more than half a
century and continues to be a bone of contention between the two countries.
Since the opening of the Karakoram highway, connecting Pakistan and
China, the geopolitical significance of PoK has increased and it is very
difficult for India to remain indifferent towards this new development.
Hence, the Kashmir issue would remain the question of concern whenever
the two nations try to take their relation to the next level.
The internal situations of both countries are normally unpredictable and
hence out of state control. In the past as well as present, there are growing
number of protests and discontent among the minorities in both countries.
Hence, internal situations are likely to have their impact on India-Pakistan
The rising aspirations of minorities cannot be ignored by Pakistan and to
curb their aspirations would prove counter-productive. The breakup of
East Pakistan from West Pakistan which led to the creation of Bangladesh
is a living example of this neglect. Pakistan was formed as an Islamic state,
where religion was used as the binding force for nationalism. However,
ethnic groups like Baluchis, Pathans, Sindhis, and also Muhajirs (muslim
refugee migrants from India) are highly discontented because of poor
governance and neglect. The increasing discrimination shown by Pakistan,
towards them, in terms of socio-economic- developments and political
participations have further alienated them. According to 2009 CIA
Factbook, the percentage of population of ethnic groups is as follows:
Ethnic Group Population (Millions) out of Total
The above data clearly shows that total strength of ethnicity is not
negligible, that population of different ethnic groups constitutes about
40.1 per cent of Pakistan‘s overall population. If the internal situation is
stable, there is possibility for Pakistan to take a strong posture towards
India in their dialogue, however if it is not stable then there is every
possibility on the part of Pakistan to take a soft stand and always be ready
to respond to India’s signal for peace and dialogue. Hence, the nature of
internal situation of Pakistan may play a vital role in shaping India- Pakistan
India too has its share of internal problems which can also have its impact
on the India Pakistan -relations from time to time. The insurgencies in the
northeastern states, the covert and overt activities of Maoists in the 13
states of the country, followed by the revival of the idea of Khalistan in
Punjab, do have their impacts on the Indian behaviour towards its hostile
neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan and China. Recently, there was
an emergence of a new movement against corruption in India, spearheaded
by social activist Anna Hazare, which received unprecedented support from
the people in the country and forced the government to pause and ponder.
Any nation which is faced with internal problems is likely to think twice
before taking a strong position towards an adversary.
The role of the Army
Indian Army is the protector of the national sovereignty and they don’t
have much role in the decision-making process of the nation’s foreign policies
towards other nations. However in the case of Pakistan, the Army had
played a very important role in shaping it’s foreign policies for a long time.
As early as year 1958, the USA intelligence agencies reported that Pakistan
Army is forming a strong lobby to exert influence on the civilian
This is clearly evident from the number of military rules so far
established in Pakistan and its monopoly over three important issues, nuclear
power, military expenditure and its nation’s foreign policies. On November
6, 2011, the Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani told the reporters at
the State Guest house in Lahore, that Pakistan’s Army is a stakeholder in
the dialogue process with India. This further proves the invincibility of the
Army and its role in Pakistani politics. Hence Pakistan’s defence forces
definitely play an important role in determining the kind of relations Pakistan
should have with its neighbouring countries.
USA and China, the foreign state actors
During the Cold War period, America did not have good relations with
India because of India’s close relationships with the communist countries
and particularly, Soviet Union. This had deteriorated their relations for
quite some time. However, in the 21st century, there is a growing relationship
between India and America for many different reasons and America even
declared India as their strategic partners in Asia. At the same time, America
has also formed closed relations with Pakistan for their strategic interests in
the South-Asian region. According to the estimate provided by the
Washington based Brookings institution, from 2001 to 2010, USA has
been the largest provider of financial aid to Pakistan. However the recent
discovery of the fact that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, who
was subsequently traced and reportedly killed by the U.S forces on May 2,
2011, has badly damaged the image of Pakistan and America and a large
number of countries in the world are suspicious about Pakistan. Under
such circumstances, the government in Pakistan may be forced to adopt a
positive attitude towards its bête noire, India.
Soon after the Sino-India war of 1962, Pakistan came closer to China and
their relations improved considerably. They even call each other all weather
friends because of their partnerships in almost all fields. China has also
emerged as the largest provider of financial aids to Pakistan, next only to
America. In September 2010, a report published in The New Times revealed
that Beijing has deployed 11,000 soldiers in Gilgit and Balistan in Pakistanoccupied
Kashmir. This created a stir in India. A number of media reports
indicate towards huge Chinese investment in hydro projects and road and
railway construction at $ 30.14 billion connecting areas closer to and
sensitive for India. China also had played a crucial role in the development
of Pakistan nuclear weapons and technology.
ISI and State-Sponsored Terrorism ISI
ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) is Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency,
responsible for providing critical national security intelligence assessment
to the government of Pakistan. There were a number of reported incidents
in the past hinting at and at times even confirming the ISI hand in the
terrorist attacks and activities in India and in other parts of the world.
There was substantial evidence about the involvement of ISI in the 26
November 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Recently, during the SAARC summit
in Maldives, Pakistani interior minister said to a group of journalists that
“Kasab is a terrorist and should be hanged”. Till now, no Pakistani minister
of his stature had said anything like this. On October 24, 2010, the Week
magazine carried an investigative report about the involvement of Pakistan’s
ISI with Nepali agents in pumping high quality fake Indian currency in
India. The director of the newly created Nepal Investigation Bureau,
Rajendra Singh Bhandari, in an interview to the magazine, said that
substantial information has been collected which shows ISI involvement in
this context. On November 14, 2011, India Today carried a report about
the ISI’s plan with Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), to carry out numerous
attacks in India. If the support extended by the ISI to these different terrorist
organisations continues, then there is a possibility of abrupt halt in the
peace process between India and Pakistan.
All these factors, along with the possession of nuclear weapons with
both countries have direct and indirect impact on the kind of relations
that India and Pakistan are going to have in the days to come. If Pakistan
and India really want to improve their relation, then it is high time that
both nations should try to resolve their problems without the involvement
or intervention of a third party and they should distance themselves from
the foreign state actors. At present we talk about improvement of relations
between the two countries through people to people contact. This approach
has been applied by India in sorting out its differences with a couple of
neighbouring countries, so far. Indeed, there is much better scope for the
success of these people to people contact approaches in resolving the long
pending differences between India and Pakistan as people, on both sides of
the border, share a common culture and a common historical past.
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