India Table of Contents

Relations with Pakistan have demanded a high proportion of India's international energies and undoubtedly will continue to do so. India and Pakistan have divergent national ideologies and have been unable to establish a mutually acceptable power equation in South Asia. The national ideologies of pluralism, democracy, and secularism for India and of Islam for Pakistan grew out of the preindependence struggle between the Congress and the All-India Muslim League (Muslim League--see Glossary), and in the early 1990s the line between domestic and foreign politics in India's relations with Pakistan remained blurred. Because great-power competition--between the United States and the Soviet Union and between the Soviet Union and China--became intertwined with the conflicts between India and Pakistan, India was unable to attain its goal of insulating South Asia from global rivalries. This superpower involvement enabled Pakistan to use external force in the face of India's superior endowments of population and resources.

The most difficult problem in relations between India and Pakistan since partition in August 1947 has been their dispute over Kashmir. Pakistan's leaders did not accept the legality of the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir to India, and undeclared war broke out in October 1947 (see The Experience of Wars, ch. 10). It was the first of three conflicts between the two countries. Pakistan's representatives ever since have argued that the people of Kashmir should be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination through a plebiscite, as promised by Nehru and required by UN Security Council resolutions in 1948 and 1949. The inconclusive fighting led to a UN-arranged cease-fire starting on January 1, 1949. On July 18, 1949, the two sides signed the Karachi Agreement establishing a cease-fire line that was to be supervised by the UN. The demarcation left Srinagar and almost 139,000 square kilometers under Indian control and 83,807 square kilometers under Pakistani control. Of these two areas, China occupied 37,555 square kilometers in India's Ladakh District (part of which is known as Aksai Chin) in 1962 and Pakistan ceded, in effect, 5,180 square kilometers in the Karakoram area to China when the two countries demarcated their common border in 1961-65, leaving India with 101,387 square kilometers and Pakistan with 78,387 square kilometers. Starting in January 1949, and still in place in 1995, the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan was tasked with supervising the cease-fire in Kashmir. The group comprises thirty-eight observers--from Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Uruguay--who rotate their headquarters every six months between Srinagar (summer) and Rawalpindi, Pakistan (winter).

In 1952 the elected and overwhelmingly Muslim Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, led by the popular Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, voted in favor of confirming accession to India. Thereafter, India regarded this vote as an adequate expression of popular will and demurred on holding a plebiscite. After 1953 Jammu and Kashmir was identified as standing for the secular, pluralistic, and democratic principles of the Indian polity. Nehru refused to discuss the subject bilaterally until 1963, when India, under pressure from the United States and Britain, engaged in six rounds of secret talks with Pakistan on "Kashmir and other related issues." These negotiations failed, as did the 1964 attempt at mediation made by Abdullah, who recently had been released from a long detention by the Indian government because of his objections to Indian control.

Armed infiltrators from Pakistan crossed the cease-fire line, and the number of skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops increased in the summer of 1965. Starting on August 5, 1965, India alleged, Pakistani forces began to infiltrate the Indian-controlled portion of Jammu and Kashmir. India made a countermove in late August, and by September 1, 1965, the second conflict had fully erupted as Pakistan launched an attack across the international line of control in southwest Jammu and Kashmir. Indian forces retaliated on September 6 in Pakistan's Punjab Province and prevailed over Pakistan's apparent superiority in tanks and aircraft. A cease-fire called by the UN Security Council on September 23 was observed by both sides. At Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in January 1966, the belligerents agreed to restore the status quo ante and to resolve outstanding issues by negotiation.

The third war between India and Pakistan, in December 1971, centered in the east over the secession of East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh), but it also included engagements in Kashmir and elsewhere on the India-West Pakistan front. India's military victory was complete. The independence of Bangladesh was widely interpreted in India--but not in Pakistan--as an ideological victory disproving the "Two Nations Theory" pushed by the Muslim League and that led to partition in 1947. At Shimla (Simla), Himachal Pradesh, on July 2, 1972, Indira Gandhi and Pakistan's President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the Simla Accord by which India would return all personnel and captured territory in the west and the two countries would "settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations." External bodies, including the UN, were excluded from the process. The fighting had resulted in the capture of each other's territory at various points along the cease-fire line, but the Simla Accord defined a new line of control that deviated in only minor ways from the 1949 cease-fire line. The two sides agreed not to alter the actual line of control unilaterally and promised to respect it "without prejudice to the recognized position of either side." Both sides further undertook to "refrain from the threat or use of force in violation of the line."

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jammu and Kashmir prospered under a virtually autonomous government led first by Sheikh Abdullah and then by his son Farooq Abdullah. In the summer of 1984, differences between Srinagar and New Delhi led to the dismissal of Farooq's government by highly questionable means. Kashmir once again became an irritant in bilateral relations. Indian diplomats consistently accused Pakistan of trying to "internationalize" the Kashmir dispute in violation of the Simla Accord.

In the mid- to late 1980s, the political situation in Kashmir became increasingly unstable. In March 1986, New Delhi invoked President's Rule to remove Farooq's successor, Ghulam Mohammed Shah, as chief minister, and replace his rule with that of Governor Jagmohan, who had been appointed by the central government in 1984. In state elections held in 1987, Farooq's political party, the National Conference, forged an alliance with Rajiv Gandhi's Congress (I), which won a majority in the state elections. Farooq's government failed to deal with Kashmir's economic problems and the endemic corruption of its public institutions, providing fertile ground for militant Kashmiris who demanded either independence or association with Pakistan.

A rising spiral of unrest, demonstrations, armed attacks by Kashmiri separatists, and armed suppression by Indian security forces started in 1988 and was still occurring in the mid-1990s. New Delhi charged Islamabad (Pakistan's capital) with assisting insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir, and Prime Minister V.P. Singh warned that India should be psychologically prepared for war. In Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto stated that Pakistan was willing to fight a "thousand-year war" for control of Kashmir. Under pressure from the United States, the Soviet Union, and China to avoid a military conflict and solve their dispute under the terms of the Simla Accord, India and Pakistan backed off in May 1990 and engaged in a series of talks on confidence-building measures for the rest of the year. Tensions reached new heights in the early and mid-1990s with increasing internal unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, charges of human rights abuses, and repeated clashes between Indian paramilitary forces and Kashmiri militants, allegedly armed with Pakistani-supplied weapons (see Political Issues, ch. 8; Insurgent Movements and External Subversion, ch. 10).

A concurrent irritant related to the Kashmir dispute was the confrontation over the Siachen Glacier near the Karakoram Pass, which is located in northeast Jammu and Kashmir. In 1984, Indian officials, citing Pakistan's "cartographic aggression" extending the line of control northeast toward the Karakoram Pass, contended that Pakistan intended to occupy the Siachen Glacier in order to stage an attack into Indian-controlled Kashmir. After New Delhi airlifted troops into the western parts of the Saltoro Mountains, Islamabad deployed troops opposite them. Both sides maintained 5,000 troops in temperatures averaging -40C. The estimated cost for India was about 10 percent of the annual defense budget for FY 1992. After several skirmishes between the opposing troops, negotiations to resolve this confrontation began with five rounds of talks between 1986 and 1989. After a three-year hiatus because of tensions caused by the other Kashmir conflict, a sixth round of talks was held in November 1992. Some progress was made on the details of an agreement. In March 1994, Indian diplomats garnered enough support at the UN Human Rights Commission to force Pakistan to withdraw a resolution charging India with human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. The two sides were encouraged to resolve their dispute through bilateral talks.

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 and Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980, she quickly dispatched a special emissary to assure Pakistani president General Mohammad Zia ul Haq that he could remove as many divisions as he wished from the Indian border without fear of any advantage being taken by India and suggested talks on reduction of force levels. Indian officials worked hard to prevent Zia from using the Afghan crisis as an opportunity to alter the regional balance of power by acquiring advanced weapons from the United States. In addition, Indira Gandhi attempted to avoid antagonizing the Soviet Union, democratic elements in Pakistan, and the substantial anti-Pakistan lobby within India. These largely secret efforts culminated in the visit of Minister of External Affairs P.V. Narasimha Rao to Pakistan in June 1981, during which time he declared publicly that India was "unequivocally committed to respect Pakistan's national unity, territorial integrity, and sovereign equality" as well as its right to obtain arms for self-defense.

Despite the setback suffered when the United States and Pakistan announced a new security and military assistance program, regular meetings took place between high Indian and Pakistani officials. These meetings were institutionalized in late 1982 in the Indo-Pakistan Joint Commission, which included subcommissions for trade, economics, information, and travel. Indira Gandhi also received Zia on November 1, 1982, in New Delhi, and during their meeting they authorized their foreign ministers and foreign secretaries to proceed with talks leading to the establishment of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC--see Glossary).

In the mid- and late 1980s, India-Pakistan relations settled into a pattern of ups and downs. Despite the signing of an economic and trade agreement, little progress was made in concluding a comprehensive, long-term economic agreement to have nondiscriminatory bilateral trade. In addition, New Delhi charged Islamabad with arming and training Sikh terrorists in Punjab. The government's 1984 White Paper on the Punjab Agitation stated that India's strength, unity, and secularism were targets of attack. The December 1985 visit of Zia to India, during which both sides agreed not to attack each other's nuclear facilities, ushered in a brief phase of cordiality, in which another agreement expanding trade was signed. The cordiality evaporated in early 1986, with further Indian unhappiness over Pakistan's alleged interference in Punjab and the bungled Pakistani handling of the terrorist seizure of a Pan American airliner in which many Indians died. For its part, Pakistan was disturbed by anti-Muslim riots in India, and Zia accused India of assisting the political campaign of Benazir Bhutto.

Between November 1986 and February 1987, first India, then Pakistan, conducted provocative military maneuvers along their border that raised tensions considerably. India's "Operation Brass Tacks" took place in Rajasthan, across from Pakistan's troubled Sindh Province, and Pakistan's maneuvers were located close to India's state of Punjab. The crisis atmosphere was heightened when Pakistan's premier nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan revealed in a March 1987 interview that Pakistan had manufactured a nuclear bomb. Although Khan later retracted his statement, India stated that the disclosure was "forcing us to review our option." The tensions created by the military exercises and the nuclear issue were defused following talks at the foreign secretary level in New Delhi (January 31-February 4) and Islamabad (February 27-March 2), during which the two sides agreed to a phased troop withdrawal to peacetime positions.

The sudden death of Zia in an air crash in August 1988 and the assumption of the prime ministership by Benazir Bhutto in December 1988 after democratic elections provided the two countries with an unexpected opportunity to improve relations. Rajiv Gandhi's attendance at the SAARC summit in Islamabad in December 1988 permitted the two prime ministers to establish a personal rapport and to sign three bilateral agreements, including one proscribing attacks on each other's nuclear facilities. Despite the personal sympathy between the two leaders and Bhutto's initial emphasis on the 1972 Simla Accord as the basis for warmer bilateral ties, domestic political pressures, particularly relating to unrest in Sindh, Punjab, and Kashmir effectively destroyed the chances for improved relations in 1989 and 1990. For her part, Bhutto backed away from her comments on the Simla Accord by continuing to press the Kashmir issue internationally, and Indian public opinion forced Rajiv Gandhi and his successor, V.P. Singh, to take a hard line on events relating to Kashmir.

In the early 1990s, Indian-Pakistani relations remained troubled despite bilateral efforts and changes in the international environment. High-level dialogue on a range of bilateral issues took place between foreign ministers and prime ministers at the UN and at other international meetings. However, discussions over confidence-building measures, begun in the summer of 1990 as a response to the Kashmir confrontation, were canceled in June 1992 following mutual expulsions of diplomats for alleged espionage activities. In June 1991, Pakistani prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif proposed talks by India, Pakistan, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China to consider making South Asia a nuclear-free zone, but the minority governments of Chandra Shekhar and subsequently that of Narasimha Rao declined to participate. Nevertheless, negotiations concerning the Siachen Glacier resumed in November 1992 after a hiatus of three years. By the mid-1990s, little had occurred to improve bilateral relations as unrest in Jammu and Kashmir accelerated and domestic politics in both nations were unsettled.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress