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Foreign Relations - India

The perception of Pakistan as an enemy nation has overshadowed all other Indian foreign policy considerations because neither country has relinquished claims over Kashmir, and a series of border irritations continue to bedevil attempts at rapprochement. Since partition, relations between Pakistan and India have been characterized by rivalry and suspicion. Although many issues divide the two countries, the most sensitive one since independence has been the status of Kashmir.

At the time of partition, the princely state of Kashmir, though ruled by a Hindu Maharajah, had an overwhelmingly Muslim population. When the Maharajah hesitated in acceding to either Pakistan or India in 1947, some of his Muslim subjects, later aided by tribesmen from Pakistan, revolted in favor of joining Pakistan. In exchange for military assistance in containing the revolt, the Kashmiri ruler offered his allegiance to India. Indian troops occupied the eastern portion of Kashmir, including its capital, Srinagar, while the western part came under Pakistani control.

India submitted this dispute to the United Nations on January 1, 1948. One year later, the UN arranged a cease-fire along a line dividing Kashmir but leaving the northern end of the line not demarcated and the Vale of Kashmir (with the majority of the population) under Indian control. India and Pakistan agreed to a resolution that called for a UN-supervised plebiscite to determine the state's future. This plebiscite has not occurred because the main precondition, the withdrawal of both nations' forces from Kashmir, has failed to take place.

Full-scale hostilities erupted in September 1965, when India alleged that insurgents trained and supplied by Pakistan were operating in India-controlled Kashmir. Hostilities ceased 3 weeks later, following mediation efforts by the UN and interested countries. In January 1966, the leaders of India and Pakistan met in Tashkent, U.S.S.R., and agreed to attempt a peaceful settlement of Kashmir and their other differences.

Following the 1971 Indo-Pakistan conflict, President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met in the hill station of Shimla, India, in July 1972. They agreed to a line of control in Kashmir resulting from the December 17, 1971, cease-fire, and endorsed the principle of settlement of bilateral disputes through peaceful means. In 1974, Pakistan and India agreed to resume postal and telecommunications linkages and to enact measures to facilitate travel. Trade and diplomatic relations were restored in 1976 after a hiatus of 5 years.

India's nuclear test in 1974 generated great uncertainty in Pakistan and is generally acknowledged to have been the impetus for Pakistan's nuclear weapons development program. In 1983, the Pakistani and Indian Governments accused each other of aiding separatists in their respective countries--Sikhs in India's Punjab state and Sindhis in Pakistan's Sindh province. In April 1984, tensions erupted after troops were deployed to the Siachen Glacier, a high-altitude, desolate area close to the China border not demarcated by the cease-fire agreement (Karachi Agreement) signed by Pakistan and India in 1949.

In the late 1980s, tensions over large-scale military maneuvers almost led to war, and regular fighting over glacial wastelands in Kashmir continues to keep the pressure high. An added dimension emerged in 1987 when Pakistan publicly admitted that it possessed nuclear weapons capability, matching Indian nuclear capabilities demonstrated in 1974. In the mid-1990s, both nations continue to devote a large percentage of their military budgets to developing or to purchasing advanced weaponry, which is mostly aimed at each other--a serious drain of resources needed for economic growth.

Tensions diminished after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in November 1984 and after a group of Sikh hijackers was brought to trial by Pakistan in March 1985. In December 1985, President Zia and Prime Minister Gandhi pledged not to attack each other's nuclear facilities. A formal "no attack" agreement was signed in January 1991. In early 1986, the Indian and Pakistani Governments began high-level talks to resolve the Siachen Glacier border dispute and to improve trade.

Bilateral tensions increased in early 1990, when Kashmiri militants began a campaign of violence against Indian Government authority in Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequent high-level bilateral meetings relieved the tensions between India and Pakistan, but relations worsened again after the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque by Hindu extremists in December 1992 and terrorist bombings in Bombay in March 1993. Talks between the Foreign Secretaries of both countries in January 1994 ended in deadlock.

More recently, the Indo-Pakistani relationship has veered sharply between rapprochement and conflict. After taking office in February 1997, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif moved to resume official dialog with India. A number of meetings at the foreign secretary and prime ministerial level took place, with positive atmospherics but little concrete progress. High-level Indo-Pakistani talks resumed after a 3-year pause. The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met twice and the foreign secretaries conducted three rounds of talks. In June 1997, the foreign secretaries identified eight "outstanding issues" around which continuing talks would be focused. The dispute over the status of Jammu and Kashmir, an issue since partition, remains the major stumbling block in their dialogue. India maintains that the entire former princely state is an integral part of the Indian union, while Pakistan insists that UN resolutions calling for self-determination of the people of the state must be taken into account.

In September 1997, the talks broke down over the structure of how to deal with the issues of Kashmir and peace and security. Pakistan advocated that the issues be treated by separate working groups. India responded that the two issues be taken up along with six others on a simultaneous basis. In May 1998 India, and then Pakistan, conducted nuclear tests. Attempts to restart dialogue between the two nations were given a major boost by the February 1999 meeting of both Prime Ministers in Lahore and their signing of three agreements. These efforts have since been stalled by the intrusion of Pakistani-backed forces into Indian-held territory near Kargil in May 1999, and by the military coup in Pakistan that overturned the Nawaz Sharif government in October the same year.

The relationship improved markedly when Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee traveled to Lahore for a summit with Sharif in February 1999. There was considerable hope that the meeting could lead to a breakthrough. In spring 1999, infiltrators from Pakistan occupied positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control in the remote, mountainous area of Kashmir near Kargil, threatening the ability of India to supply its forces on Siachen Glacier. By early summer, serious fighting flared in the Kargil sector. The infiltrators withdrew following a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and President Clinton in July. Relations between India and Pakistan were particularly strained during the 1999 coup in Islamabad. Then, just weeks after the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States, an attack on India's Parliament on December 13 further strained this relationship.

The prospects for better relations between India and Pakistan improved in early January 2004 when a summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) permitted India's Prime Minister Vajpayee to meet with President Musharraf. Both leaders agreed to establish a Composite Dialogue to resolve their disputes. The Composite Dialogue focuses on eight issues: confidence building measures, Kashmir, Wullar barrage, promotion of friendly exchanges, Siachen glacier, Sir creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, and economic and commercial cooperation. The first round of the Composite Dialogue was held in New Delhi on June 27-28, 2004.

Relations further improved when President Musharraf met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York in October 2004. Additional steps aimed at improving relations were announced when Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh visited Islamabad in February 2005 and in April 2005 when President Musharraf traveled to India to view a cricket match and hold discussions. In a further display of improved relations, bus service commenced from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to Srinagar in April 2005. After a destructive earthquake hit the Kashmir region in October 2005, the two countries cooperated with each other to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

The 2005 gradual easing out of tensions between India and Pakistan had enabled a series of confidence building measures (CBMs). Since then the slow but steady negotiations have aimed at addressing the contentious issues such as Siachen, Sir Creek, Baglihar, Tulbul navigation project, drug trafficking, terrorism, organised crime, prisoners, roadblocks to trade and transit routes. While significant achievements have been made on certain issues, there are some issues over which no agreements had been reached.

The agreement on conventional CBMs is merely in finalisation of the proposals put forward in the Agra Summit in 1999. It has taken six years to agree to implement the said proposals which acts as a dampener for speeding up the pace of the CBMs. Moreover, genuine security concerns need to be retained while chalking out these measures which are precisely the reason for the stalling in this area. Indian Defence Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee's observations that Pakistan has built bunkers and reinforced defence structures in Tanghdar, Batalik, Kargil and Nowshera sectors since the November 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) could hamper the movement. There was a need to institutionalise nuclear CBMs and establish nuclear risk reduction centers on the lines of the ones established between the US and the former Soviet Union.

Musharraf and Singh met in September 2006 at the Non-Aligned Summit in Havana. At this meeting, the two leaders condemned all acts of terrorism and agreed to continue the search for options acceptable to both sides for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. The foreign secretaries of both nations opened the fourth round of the Composite Dialogue in Islamabad on March 13-14, 2007.

Thanks to the peace process, at least until the terror attack on Mumbai in November 2008, the tone and tenor of India-Pakistan relations were very encouraging and far from confrontational. Despite the grave provocation, the Mumbai issue did not lead to any military crisis of the kind that was witnessed in the aftermath of the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001.Though, progress in 2009 remained stagnant after both countries blamed each other for being unhelpful during the investigations towards the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

On 10 February, 2011, India agreed to resume talks with Pakistan which were suspended after 26/11 Mumbai Attacks. India had put on hold all the diplomatic relations saying it will only continue if Pakistan will act against the accused of Mumbai attacks.

When Osama Bin Laden died in early May 2011, the reaction in India was with jubilation. The headline in The Times of India read: “Osama Killed, Pak Wounded.” India Today described Pakistan on its cover as “Terroristan.” Indians relished the fact that Bin Laden was found in Pakistan, in a large mansion, in the company of a wife. The situation confirmed India’s official position that it is in Pakistan’s nature to protect terrorists.

On July 13, 2011, another terrorist attack occurred in Mumbai, India. Three bombings were confirmed in Zaveri Bazaar. Over 130 people were injured and 19 people were killed in the attacks. Mumbai has been hit by terrorist incidents at least half a dozen times since the early 1990s, with over 600 people dying in these attacks. No one initially came forward to claim responsibility. India accused "foreign" elements in being behind the attacks, though it did not publicly implicate Pakistan. Pakistani authorities immediately condemned the attacks and said that the bombings should not hamper continued peace talks.

India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was expected to emerge as the largest parliamentary force after the general elections, paving the way for its controversial leader Narendra Modi to become the next prime minister. Critics fear the Hindu nationalist leader’s possible rise could worsen ties with neighboring Pakistan, but leaders and observers in Islamabad think otherwise.

In Pakistani political circles, the relatively optimistic outlook on Narendra Modi’s possible rise to power is rooted in history. Many cite the example of former BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who undertook a historic bus journey to Lahore in 1999 to promote peace with Pakistan. That visit laid the foundation for a wide-ranging peace dialogue aimed at normalizing relations and trying to resolve territorial disputes. It led to increased transportation and trade links, and a reduction in tensions. The peace process since suffered repeated setbacks and been stalled for more than a year.

Despite a lack of progress on territorial disputes, trade ties between India and Pakistan have significantly improved in recent years. In Marach 2014 Islamabad was on the verge of granting New Delhi long-awaited trade concessions under Pakistan’s international obligations, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif withheld the decision at the last moment.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a brief stopover 25 December 2015 in Pakistan — the first time in 12 years that an Indian prime minister had visited the rival country — and held talks with his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. The Indian prime minister had telephoned Sharif that morning and expressed “his desire” to undertake the “goodwill” visit, and the Pakistani prime minister welcomed the initiative as an important step to bring their rival nations closer.

It is widely perceived that Pakistan and India are engaged in a proxy war on Afghan soil in their bid to influence developments in Afghanistan. Islamabad dismisses the impression, and Modi tried to allay those fears. “You know that India is here to contribute, not to compete; to lay the foundations of the future, not light the flame of conflict; to rebuild lives, not destroy a nation,” he said.

The army was skeptical of Sharif's friendly overtures towards regional arch-rival India, and the acrimony had increased since anti-New Delhi protests started in parts of India-administered Kashmir in the summer of 2016. Unlike the opposition leader Imran Khan or other pro-army politicians, Sharif hadn't been as critical of Indian PM Narendra Modi, which a typical Pakistani premier is expected to be. The army leadership was very skeptical of Nawaz Sharif due to the premier's repeated attempts to improve ties with India and enhance trade between the two South Asian nuclear-armed arch-rivals.

For years Pakistan had accused its archrival India of engaging in hybrid warfare which relies on a disinformation campaign to undermine Islamabad at international forums. Now it seems much of that is true. The EU DisinfoLab has uncovered a network of NGOs and fake media organisations linked to India that for more than a decade have been engaged in anti-Pakistan propaganda. "It is the largest network we have exposed," Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU DisinfoLab told the BBC after the report “Indian Chronicles” was published on 09 Decembe4r 2020.

Brussels-based DisinfoLab is a European NGO which aims to check the disinformation targeting the European Union, its parliamentarians and policies. In a sophisticated operation, much of which has been linked to the New Delhi-based Srivastava Group, hundreds of fake media outlets, long-dead organisations and stolen identities were used to paint Pakistan in a negative light in the EU and elsewhere,

While DisinfoLab says it has not found any connection between this campaign and the Indian state, Pakistan’s foreign office came out with a strong statement. “India not only spread disinformation but abused international institutions in its desire to malign Pakistan,” it said.

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Page last modified: 08-01-2021 14:06:03 ZULU