Indo-Pak Relations - I
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Issue Courtesy: Aakrosh | Date : 15 Jul , 2011

There was a phase when cricket matches between India and Pakistan excited certain sections in India to express their anger against the same by damaging property where they were being held, shouting anti-Pak slogans and so forth. Now, with cricket being exploited commercially in a major way, Pakistani players are seen playing for companies controlled by Indians. In this respect, the commercial boom linked with cricket bears its own importance in having led to an apparent end to the Indo-Pak animosity being reflected on the cricket field. This does not, however, imply that Indo-Pak relations may be viewed as having reached the stage of being as diplomatically smooth as they can ideally expected to be. The answer is no. While they are off the battlefield, the two neighbours have not ceased from hurling verbal missiles and indulging in a blame game against each other.

The anti-Pak and anti-India approach held in both countries revolved around their being either at war or not.

Besides, while business lobbies are well aware of the potential that Indo-Pak economic ties have, they have yet to be exploited fully. Indo-Pak tension is also held responsible for the regional organisation SAARC remaining confined to playing the role of routine diplomacy marked by the gathering of member countries. It has yet to develop as other regional organisations, such as NATO, have.

It would not be possible to elaborate on each of these aspects in this paper. An attempt shall be made to first focus on the nuclear turn in Indo-Pak ties and then analyse other developments.

Nuclear Diplomacy

With each country moving ahead on its nuclear path and also taking steps to enhance cooperation even across the controversial LoC by opening travel routes between India-occupied and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Indo-Pak nuclear diplomacy cannot be ignored. Undeniably, their nuclear diplomacy stands symbolic of the ideal use to which nuclear prowess can and should be put diplomatically. Had either or both countries exploited nuclear prowess to initiate conflicts, engage in war/warlike games or issue threats, their nuclear diplomacy would then have been labelled a dismal failure. Diplomacy, whether nuclear or nonnuclear, can only be held as having failed when war or warlike measures are taken by one or more powers against any nation.

Editor’s Pick

There is no denying that before they stepped onto the nuclear path, compared to the present period, India and Pakistan gave little importance to solving their differences through diplomatic measures. The anti-Pak and anti-India approach held in both countries revolved around their being either at war or not. Undoubtedly, India and Pakistan have not been engaged in any major conflict since their progress along the nuclear path. In fact, the two countries appear to have reached a mutual and tacit understanding about not being engaged in an open conflict. They have accepted the hard fact that differences over various issues may time and again bring a chill, tension and/or even a break in their interaction at the official level. What is pertinent is that even when Indo-Pak cordiality has given the impression of having reached a dismal low, diplomacy has been lived up to significantly enough with their not opting for a full-fledged war.

The 1999 Kargil crisis, while it lasted, did raise apprehensions about India and Pakistan heading for a major conflict.1 An impression was created of their having reached a near-war stage. It was the first Indo-Pak bilateral crisis after they assumed the status of nuclear powers. In other words, in addition to spreading tension among both countries and international observers about India and Pakistan heading towards a conflict, it was also a major test of their nuclear diplomacy.

The Kargil crisis brought India and Pakistan to a near-war stage but not to an actual and full-fledged war. It was definitely a setback to the Lahore Declaration, a bilateral agreement signed on 21 February 1991 by the then prime minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. The Lahore Declaration was viewed as a major breakthrough in their relations, particularly as it was inked following nuclear tests carried out by both the countries in May 1998. But the optimism raised about an improvement in Indo-Pak relations lost its momentum because of the Kargil crisis, a point that shall be looked at from another angle later. With respect to their nuclear diplomacy, it is important to note that they kept away from an open conflict during the Kargil crisis.

The Lahore Declaration was viewed as a major breakthrough in their relations, particularly as it was inked following nuclear tests carried out by both the countries in May 1998. But the optimism raised about an improvement in Indo-Pak relations lost its momentum because of the Kargil crisis”¦

Without doubt, the United States was acutely apprehensive of India and Pakistan taking to the MAD path by pursuing a nuclear proliferation drive. Certainly, the U.S. tried its best to prevent either from going for the nuclear bomb,2 but Washington failed to secure both India’s and Pakistan’s signature to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Had only India or only Pakistan pursued nuclear proliferation, the situation may have been different. It may be noted that Pakistan stayed away from being a signatory to NPT on the ground that India was not inking it. To this date, the policy of deterrence has held India and Pakistan from going towards the MAD path. India opposed the NPT as it was against “vertical proliferation”—that is nuclear drive being pursued by only a few powers. Their nuclear drive, as suggested by the following pattern, has had a revolutionary impact on their bilateral ties.

  • During the seventies, the United States was strongly against Pakistan joining the nuclear club. Pakistan, however, remained insistent and moved ahead to pursue its nuclear drive. United States reacted strongly and imposed Symington and Glenn amendments, cancelling US aid to Pakistan during the late seventies. The two amendments prohibit US aid to any country “found trafficking in nuclear enrichment equipment or technology outside of international safeguards,” and/or any nuclear-weapon state (as defined by NPT) that, “among other things, detonates a nuclear explosive device.”
  • During this period, Indo-Pak relations were at a very low ebb. The crucial role played by India in helping Pakistan’s eastern wing seek independence, leading to the formation of Bangladesh, in 1971, cannot be delinked from the fact that Indo-Pak ties were fairly dismal during this phase. The India factor, however, carried little importance in United States’ stand against Pakistan’s nuclear policy. The United States opposed India’s nuclear drive also. Interestingly, neither India nor Pakistan paid much attention then to U.S. sanctions’ threat and/or their imposition regarding their nuclear drive.
  • Regional developments compelled the United States to give importance to the geostrategic worth of Pakistan from early eighties. The United States was forced to change its stand following the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Russian intervention in Afghanistan (1979). In 1981, a presidential waiver was given to Symington and Glenn Amendments, leading to the resumption of United States’ aid to Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan continued its nuclear pursuits, maintaining an attitude of diplomatic ambivalence. It was then apparently essential for such ambiguity to keep a façade of Pakistan’s nuclear designs before American officials. The façade was also needed to keep the U.S. image about the superpower not aiding a country engaged in nuclear proliferation.
  • The phase from the eighties was suggestive of Indo-Pak relations having reached the stage of no conflict.

“¦despite Indo-Pak tension being severe over the Kargil war in 1999 and Mumbai terror strikes in November 2008), they did not reach the stage of any open conflict.

  • Despite Pakistan clandestinely pursuing its nuclear drive, there was a marked change in United States’ approach towards the same. The U.S. had earlier imposed sanctions against Pakistan for continuing its nuclear drive. During the eighties, the U.S. chose not to be disturbed by the same.
  • During the same period, India and Pakistan moved towards the stage of “cordiality,” described then as unimagined of in the past. Earlier, the Indo-Pak animosity had created the impression that both countries were engaged either in wars or in avoidance of the same. Now, ground for moving to better ties was laid at different levels, including negotiations for discussing elements of discord and move towards greater cooperation and cricket diplomacy.

The highlight of this period was the six-point accord reached between the then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Pakistani president Zia-ul-Haq in December 1985, during the latter’s visit to Delhi. It was inked during the Indian prime minister’s visit to Islamabad in December 1988. The two countries agreed in principle not to attack each other’s nuclear installations. The agreement came into force on 27 January 1991. Under the agreement, the two countries, on 1 January every year, are to inform each other of nuclear Installations and facilities to be covered by the agreement. The first such exchange of lists took place on 1 January 1992.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Nilofar Suhrawardy

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a well-known freelance journalist who has, at different periods, written extensively for national papers.

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