[Burning Issue] India-Pakistan Relations

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Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) approved the country’s first-ever National Security Policy (NSP) – which is designed to be a “Comprehensive National Security Framework” and covers a five-year period from 2022-26. Pakistan’s (official) policy now leaves the door open for trade with India even without the settlement of the Kashmir issue – provided there is headway in bilateral talks. Earlier, Kashmir used to be at the centre stage of all Pakistani outcry.

New Security Policy

  • The country’s new policy would act as an umbrella document, to be used as a guideline for Pakistan`s foreign, international and defence related policies.
  • The five-year-policy document, which will span 2022-26, is being touted by the Pakistan government as the country’s first-ever strategy paper of its kind.

Key highlights of the document

  • Focus on trade: The 100-page policy document has also put out elaborate plans to open trade and business ties with India.
  • Silent on Kashmir: Kashmir issue with India has been identified as a ‘vital national policy’ issue for Pakistan.
  • No public discussion: Only a part of the national security policy will be made public.
  • Defying hostility with India: The document states that Pakistan is not seeking hostility with India for the next 100 years.
  • Curbing militancy: The new policy also deals with the issue of militant and dissident groups and advocates dialogue with ‘reconcilable elements.’
  • No re-conciliation with India: There are no prospects of rapprochement with India under the current government.
  • Others: On the internal front, the new policy identifies five key areas of population/migration, health, climate and water, food security and gender mainstreaming.

Significance of such policy

  • Pakistan and India have mostly been at loggerheads with each other throughout history.
  • During the first term of Narendra Modi in 2014, the relations took a positive turn when he announced his intentions to have cordial relations with Pakistan.
  • He had also visited Islamabad in 2015 unannounced to attend a marriage ceremony in Ex-PMs family.
  • However, the relations deteriorated following the horrific 2016 Uri attacks.

Concerns with Pakistan’s National Security Policy

  • The vision laid out in the policy: There are concerns that this will result in increasing unchecked military control within the country and affect the borer-tensions with India as well.
  • Increased corruption: The Pakistan Army has never fully exposed the country’s defence spending and it does not allow inspection of its huge network of economic businesses and real estate.
  • Might increase extremism: There are concerns that Pakistan’s National Security Policy will result in increased radical events of extremism in the wake of challenging the security issues.
  • Hamper country’s growth: Diverting resources from development to military, in addition to Pakistan’s philosophy and attitude, is seen to hamper the country’s social growth and economic management.

Implications of the National Security Policy of Pakistan on India

  • The policy hints at peace with other countries, especially in the neighbourhood.
  • Strategic establishment in India would need to look at the policy in the context of security challenges.
  • The policy will impact Pakistan’s approach to India as an open-ended subject by changing the military engagements and infrastructure built up along the border areas.
  • The economic pressures and primacy in the National Security Policy make India review its trade policy towards Pakistan and take advantage of better economic dynamics.
  • India needs to demarcate a clear distinction between geo-politics and geo-economics in the context of provision of the policy.
  • The policy is unlikely to bring any change in Pakistan’s active support to cross-border terrorism and position on Kashmir.

China as anchor

  • Stoutly refusing to open up trade with India, Pakistan has looked to other economic and commercial partners among whom China is by far the most important.
  • The security relationship was the anchor of the China-Pakistan ties. Now, Pakistan hopes that China will offer its assistance to transform its economy.
  • It looks to the mechanisms under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to play a crucial role through connectivity, port development, power production and other investments.

Factors behind the complex bilateral ties between the two countries

(1) Cross-border Terrorism

  • Terrorism emanating from territories under Pakistan’s control remains a core concern in bilateral relations.
  • India has consistently stressed the need for Pakistan to take credible, irreversible and verifiable action to end cross-border terrorism against India.
  • Pakistan has yet not brought the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks 2008 to justice in the ongoing trials, even after all the evidence have been provided to them.
  • India has firmly stated that it will not tolerate and comprise on issues regarding national security.
  • Based on attacks in India and involvement of the neighboring country, the Indian Army had conducted surgical strike at various terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control, as an answer to the attack at the army camp in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India had again hit back over the cross-border terror attack on the convey of Indian security forces in Pulwama by carrying out a successful airstrike at a training camp of JeM in Balakot, Pakistan.

(2) Kashmir

  • Due to political differences between the two countries, the territorial claim of Kashmir has been the subject of wars in 1947, 1965 and a limited conflict in 1999 and frequent ceasefire violations and promotion of rebellion within the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The then princely state remains an area of contention and is divided between the two countries by the Line of Control (LoC), which demarcates the ceasefire line agreed post-1947 conflict.

(3) Siachen Glacier

  • Siachen Glacier is located in Northern Ladakh in the Karakoram Range.
  • Most of the Siachen Glacier is disputed between India and Pakistan. Before 1984, neither of the two countries had any permanent presence on the glacier.
  • Under the Shimla Agreement of 1972, the Siachen was called barren and useless. This Agreement also did not specify the boundary between India and Pakistan.
  • When India got intelligence that Pakistan was going to occupy Siachen Glacier, it launched Operation Meghdoot to reach the glacier first.
  • Following the success of Operation Meghdoot, the Indian Army obtained the area at a higher altitude and Pakistan army getting a much lower altitude. Thus, India has a strategic advantage in this region.
  • Following the 2003 armistice treaty between the two countries, firing and bombardment have ceased in this area, though both the sides have stationed their armies in the region.

(4) Sir Creek Dispute

  • Sir Creek is a 96 km estuary in the Rann of Kutch. Rann of Kutch lies between Gujarat (India) and Sindh (Pakistan).
  • Pakistan claims the entire Sir Creek in accordance with a 1914 agreement that was signed between the Government of Sindh and Rulers of Kutch.
  • India, on the other hand, claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as per a 1925 map.
  • If one country agrees to the other’s position, the former will lose a vast amount of Exclusive Economic Zone that is rich with gas and mineral deposits.

(5) Water disputes

  • The Indus Waters Treaty is the water distribution treaty signed between India and Pakistan, brokered by World Bank.
  • According to the treaty, three rivers, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas were given to India for exclusive use and the other three rivers, Sindh, Jhelum and Chenab were given to Pakistan.
  • This treaty failed to address the dispute since source rivers of Indus Basin were in India, having the potential to create drought and famines in Pakistan.
  • Last year, Modi Government had stated that India would no longer allow its share of river waters to flow into Pakistan in response to the Pulwama terror attack.
  • According to the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, India can exploit rivers under its control without disturbing the flow or quantum. India plans to divert its three rivers to the Yamuna.

Major Achievements

Some of the confidence-building measures taken to improve Indo-Pakistan relations are as follows:

(1) Military CBMs

  • Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities was signed in 1988 and ratified in 1990. The first exchange took place on January 1, 1992.
  • As per the Agreement, India and Pakistan exchange the list of their nuclear installations to prevent attacking each other’s atomic facilities. This practise has been followed to date.
  • Agreement on Advance Notification on Military Exercises, Manoeuvres and Troop Movements were brought into effect in 1991 played a crucial role in deescalating the tensions on both sides of the LoC.
  • A communication link between Pakistan Maritime Security Agency and the Indian Coast Guard was established in 2005 to facilitate the early exchange of information regarding anglers who are apprehended for straying into each other’s waters.
  • A hotline between the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both the countries have been in effect since 1965 and was used in an unscheduled exchange to discuss troop movements and allay tensions in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks.

(2) Non-military CBMs

  • Delhi-Lahore Bus Service was initiated in 1999. It was suspended in the aftermath of the 2001 Indian Parliament Attack.
    • The bus service was later resumed in 2003 when bilateral relations had improved.
    • This service was recently suspended in 2019 in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution.
  • Samjhauta Express was launched following the signing of the Shimla Agreement connects the Pakistani city of Lahore and the Indian town of Attari.
    • It had been suspended frequently, but due to negotiations, it was restarted. In 2019, it was suspended after the revocation of the special status of Kashmir.
  • Weekly Bus Service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad was initiated in 2005. It has withstood the test of times and still operational.
  • Since 2014, India has been successful in the repatriation of 2133 Indians from Pakistan’s custody (including fishermen), and still, about 275 Indians are believed to be in their custody
  • The Bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines was signed between the two countries in 1974.
  • The protocol provides for three Hindu pilgrimages and four Sikh pilgrimages every year to visit 15 shrines in Pakistan while five Pakistan pilgrimage visit shrines in India.
  • An agreement between India and Pakistan for the facilitation of pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Pakistan, was signed on 24 October 2019 in order to fulfill the long-standing demand of the pilgrims to have easy and smooth access to the holy Gurudwara.

Failures in the CBM process

  • Although there are hotlines connecting both military and political leaders in both countries, they have been scarcely used when required the most.
  • The absence of communications has led to suspicions and accusations of misinformation.
  • There is a disproportionate emphasis on military CBMs and inadequate recognition of several momentous non-military CBMs.
  • Governments of both sides often use CBMs as political tools to win over specific constituencies, which can be very damaging in the long-run.
  • Public conciliatory statements, which are meant to be CBMs, can have the opposite effect if they are insincere.

Way Forward

(1) Reforming Pakistan’s political structure

  • Despite the democratic elections in Pakistan, the military wields real power in the country. This holds true especially on matters of defence, national security and foreign policy.
  • Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), consisting for personnel from Pakistan Armed Forces, is often accused of supporting and training separatist militant groups operating in India.
  • This makes it highly difficult for India to undertake diplomatic relations with the Pakistani government since it is not the decision-maker in the country.
  • Thus, a strong political reform in Pakistan, one that focuses on the welfare of the Pakistani nationals is vital to improving its relations with India.

(2) People-to-people relations

  • Propaganda is currently being used by both sides through the media to justify each other’s stand on conflicting issues.
  • This is creating misconception, hatred and stereotyping among the people of both countries.
  • This method is also used for political gains of both nations, with the least consideration towards people’s welfare and the need for peace.
  • Steps must be taken to facilitate travel between the two countries, ease up visa regimes, provide security for tourists, set up student and faculty exchanges, and invite professionals, intellectuals and artists to events to promote the bilateral ties.

(3) Promote trade

Steps that can be undertaken to improve bilateral trade include:

  • Remove non-tariff barriers and bureaucratic hurdles that are currently impeding trade.
  • Cut down duties
  • Improve customs clearance procedures
  • Proportionate trade is beneficial for both sides and is possible through the right government policies.

(4) Promoting soft diplomacy

  • Use of Indus Waters Treaty to promote hydro diplomacy. Both nations can come together to construct Water Grid between their territories to address the water problems in the region.
  • Cultural diplomacy can be used through the exchange of ideas, values, traditions, and other cultural aspects to strengthen bilateral ties, enhance socio-cultural cooperation and promote individual national interest.
  • Promotion of Cricket diplomacy i.e., the use of cricket as a diplomatic tool to overcome differences between the two countries.
  • To a certain extent, soft diplomacy improved the people-to-people relations between the two countries and eased the tensions on both sides.

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