Of all India’s relations, that with Pakistan has been the most problematic and highly charged, over the longest period of time, a relationship accurately described by Inder Gujral as a ‘tormented’ one.
Such has been this ongoing, generally negative relationship that for each country the other now looms large as something of an existential bogeyman, the ‘Other’.
Even as India looks beyond South Asia in its international rise, relations with Pakistan continue to remain embedded like a thorn in India’s foreign policy, both within its immediate neighbourhood, and also in India’s extended neighbourhood. An ‘unending’ tension and conflict has characterized their relationship as neighbouring independent states.
An initial moment in time illustrates this well, namely the Simla Agreement, drawn up in July 1972 in the aftermath of yet another war between these two neighbours. This came a quarter of a century after their emergence as independent successor states to British India.
The Agreement’s preamble asserted that ‘The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan are resolved that the two countries put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have hitherto marred their relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and the establishment of durable peace in the subcontinent’.
To talk of conflict and confrontation as having marred their relations was indeed accurate. Unfortunately, a friendly and harmonious relationship had failed to operate before 1972, but equally well has also failed to establish itself since 1972.
Within the Simla Agreement some technical details were established over the return of Prisoners of War, but little else. It stated that ‘the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them’. Their differences have not been resolved.
The Simla Agreement talked of how ‘the basic issues and causes of conflict which have bedevilled the relations between the two countries for the last 25 years shall be resolved by peaceful means’, but those basic issues and causes of conflict still remain pretty intact, unresolved by peaceful or indeed non-peaceful means.
Within that range of issues, the Agreement talked of working to bring about ‘a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir’, but almost 50 years on, the issue of Kashmir remains a confrontational bone of contention between them.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutoo and Mrs Indira Gandhi signing the Shimla agreement
Meanwhile, the Simla Agreement talked of interim measures, of a practical modus vivendi: ‘both Governments will take all steps within their power to prevent hostile propaganda directed against each other’, a still-born piece of rhetoric.
The Agreement may have expressed the hope that ‘pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organization, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations’, but each side accuses the other of detrimental acts and encouragement of hostile forces.
The Agreement may have asserted that ‘the pre-requisite for reconciliation, good neighborliness and durable peace between them is a commitment by both the countries to peaceful coexistence, respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs’, yet interference and destabilization continued to be perceived by each against the other.
Pakistan accuses India of supporting Baluchi separatism; India accuses Pakistan of supporting Kashmir jihadist breakaway groups.
The Simla Agreement talked of ‘basic issues and causes of conflict which have bedevilled the relations between the two countries for the last 25 years’.
These basic issues and causes of conflict can be organized into the following: national identity, Kashmir, terrorism, strategic culture and the legacy of war, missile–nuclear arms race, wider alliances, and economic linkages.
Three Pakistan levels are involved, the role of Pakistan’s governments, the role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the role of Pakistan-based jihadist groups.
If you like this article, please leave a comment and share this article on social media.