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Indo-Pak Relations

Indo-Pak Relations – A brief history

India and Pakistan share linguistic, cultural, geographic, and economic links, yet their relation has been mired in complexity due to a number of historical and political events.

Indo-Pak relations have been defined by the violent partition of British India in 1947, the Jammu & Kashmir conflict and the numerous military conflicts fought between the two nations.

The partition of British India was one of the largest human migrations ever seen and sparked bloody massacres of refugees across the region. It displaced up to 12.5 million people, with an estimated loss of life of 1 million. India became a secular nation with a Hindu majority population and a large Muslim minority, while Pakistan emerged as an Islamic republic with an overwhelming Muslim majority population and a very small population subscribing to other faiths.

The first war between India and Pakistan was fought over Jammu & Kashmir. Armed Pakistani tribesmen aided by the newly created Pakistani Army invade Jammu & Kashmir in October 1947. The legal ruler of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, faced with internal revolt as well an external invasion, requested the assistance of the Indian armed forces and agreed to accede to India. He handed over control of his defence, communications and foreign affairs to the Indian government.

Fighting continued through the second half of 1948. The war officially ended on January 1, 1949, when the United Nations arranged a ceasefire, with an established ceasefire line, a UN peacekeeping force and the recommendation that a referendum on the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India be held.

Pakistan controlled roughly one-third of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, referring to it as Azad (free) Jammu and Kashmir and claiming that it was semi-autonomous. A larger area, including the former kingdoms of Hunza and Nagar, was controlled directly by the central Pakistani government.

In 1965, India and Pakistan fought their second war, that was preceded by skirmishes that took place between the two nations between April and September. There were thousands of casualties on both sides in the war, and it witnessed the largest engagement of armored vehicles and the largest tank battle since World War II. It ended after a United Nations mandated ceasefire was declared following diplomatic intervention by the Soviet Union and the United States, and the subsequent signing of the Tashkent Declaration.

East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) became the reason for the third war between India and Pakistan. The conflict between East and West Pakistan begins when the central Pakistani government  that was seated in West Pakistan, led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, refused to allow Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, an East Pakistan-based Bengali whose party won the majority of seats in the 1970 parliamentary elections, to assume the premiership of the country.

The Pakistani military cracked down on protestors in the Dhaka March in 1971 in which students and teachers were killed in large numbers. India became involved in the conflict in December, after the Pakistani air force launched a pre-emptive strike on airfields in India's northwest. India retaliated with a coordinated land, air and sea assault on East Pakistan. It compelled the Pakistani army to surrender at Dhaka and more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoners of war.

East Pakistan becomes an independent country, Bangladesh, on December 6, 1971.

In July 1972, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Pakistani counterpart Prime Minister Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto signed an agreement in the Indian town of Simla, in which both countries agreed to "put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have hitherto marred bilateral relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and the establishment of a durable peace in the subcontinent". Both sides agreed to settle any disputes "by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations".

The Simla Agreement designated the ceasefire line of December 17, 1971 as being the new "Line-of-Control (LoC)" between the two countries, which neither side was to seek to alter unilaterally, and which "shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognised position of either side". The Simla Agreement was ratified by the Parliaments of both India and Pakistan in 1972.

Armed insurgency in the Kashmir Valley began. Muslim political parties, after accusing the state government of rigging the 1987 state legislative elections, formed militant wings.

Pakistan declares that it was providing "moral and diplomatic" support to the militants. However it is widely believed internationally that Pakistan is actually complicit in stoking the insurgency by providing funding, directions, shelter, weapons and training to fighters. India is convinced that the armed attacks against its forces in Jammu & Kashmir are a clear manifestation of "cross-border terrorism" by Pakistan in pursuit of its policy of 'bleeding India through a thousand cuts'. Pakistan denies this.

Militant groups taking part in the fight in the Kashmir Valley continued to emerge through the 1990’s, their ranks bolstered by a large influx of battle-hardened "Mujahideen" who had earlier taken part in the Afghan war against the Soviets.

Despite centuries of communal harmony in Jammu & Kashmir between Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, the minority Hindu community of Jammu & Kashmir (Kashmiri Pandits) in the Kashmir Valley was targeted by the militants and forced to migrate.

Many pan-Islamic terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taibah (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) continued to be active in Jammu & Kashmir. It is widely believed in international circles, including by several Western governments, that these groups are headquartered in Pakistan and Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir. (For more about this please click here)

India detonated five nuclear devices at Pokhran. Pakistan responded by detonating six nuclear devices of its own in the Chaghai Hills. The tests resulted in international sanctions being placed on both countries. Both countries became the newest Nuclear-armed nations.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled by Bus to Lahore (Newly opened Delhi –Lahore Bus service) to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The two signed the Lahore Declaration, the first major agreement between the two countries since the 1972 Simla Agreement. Both countries reiterated that they remained committed to the Simla Agreement, and agreed to undertake a number of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) aimed at improving bilateral relations.

In May, the Kargil conflict broke out when Pakistani forces intruded and occupied strategic positions on the Indian side of the LoC, prompting an Indian counter offensive in which Pakistani forces were pushed back to their side of the original LoC.

Kargil was the first armed conflict between the two neighbours since they officially conducted nuclear weapons tests. Recognition of the potential for escalation of this conflict and its wider implications caused the then US President Bill Clinton to summon Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and demand that he rein in his troops. 

On December 13, an armed attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi left 14 people dead. Lashkar-e-Taibah (LeT) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) were held responsible for the attacks.

The attacks led to a massing of the militaries India's and Pakistan's along the LoC. The standoff ended only in October 2002, after international mediation.

Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf held direct talks at the 12th SAARC summit in Islamabad in January, and the two countries' Foreign Secretaries met later in the year. The year marked the beginning of the Composite Dialogue Process, in which bilateral meetings were held between officials at various levels of government (including Foreign Ministers, Foreign Secretaries, military officers, border security officials, anti-narcotics officials and nuclear experts).

In November, on the eve of a visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the new Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, announced that India will be reducing its deployment of troops there.

On November 26, in one of the most gruesome terrorist attacks the world has witnessed, armed gunmen opened fire on civilians at several sites in Mumbai, India. The attacked places were the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the Oberoi Trident Hotel, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Train Terminus, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital, Nariman House Jewish Community Centre, Metro Cinema, St Xavier's College and a lane near the Times of India office. More than 160 people were killed in the attacks. An almost three-day siege of the Taj, where gunmen remained holed up until all but one of them were killed in an Indian security forces operation, accounted for the bulk of the casualties.

Ajmal Kasab, the only attacker captured alive, confessed that the attackers were members of Lashkar-e-Taibah (LeT). Tracking calls and communications all linked back to Pakistan, from where the entire attack was plotted and directed. 

In the wake of the attacks, India broke off talks with Pakistan.

The Pakistani government admitted that the Mumbai attacks were planned on Pakistani soil, but denied that the plotters were sanctioned or aided by Pakistan's intelligence agencies.

The Indian government continued to take a stern line with Pakistan, however, with its coalition government saying that it was up to Pakistan to take the first step towards resumption of substantive talks by cracking down on militant groups on its soil.

In September, the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. They agreed to end tension between the armies of both sides in the disputed region of Jammu & Kashmir.

On May 1, Pakistan's Army Chief General Raheel Sharif called Kashmir the "jugular vein" of Pakistan, adding that for lasting peace in the region the dispute should be resolved in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of Kashmiris and in line with UNSC resolutions.

On May 27, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New Delhi. Both sides expressed willingness to begin a new era of bilateral relations.