Indo-Pakistan Relations: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Even if frozen ties are to thaw, relations between India and Pakistan would remain tenuous, liable to disruption by events and actors alike.

Since the first week of August 2013, regular cross border firings have taken place between India and Pakistan, along the disputed border, known as the Line of Control (LoC).

Not only have Pakistani soldiers violated the existing ceasefire agreement between both countries — in place since 2003 — terrorists dressed in army fatigues in the last week of September carried out audacious attacks on the 16 Light Cavalry, the oldest armored regiment of the Indian army, in Samba district in Jammu & Kashmir.

As winter months approach, there is a visible increase in the militant attempts to infiltrate into Indian territory. India protested, pointed at the possible role of the Pakistan military in these incidents, and Pakistan continued to stick to its religious rebuttals of direct or indirect involvement in the attacks and infiltration.

Each time tensions between India and Pakistan escalate, the specter of a full-scale war looms large.

Apart from the fact that nuclear weapons play a significant deterrent and precludes the possibility of an all out confrontation, absence of war and conscious efforts to engage each other over the past few years have led to the development of a culture which provides a rationale for staying committed to a peace process.

None of these, however, has led to any progress on resolving the contentious Kashmir issue.

Restart to the process of dialogue between the two countries has the potential of dousing the fire and infusing a semblance of normalcy into the bilateral relations. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York in the second half of September 2013.

India’s External Affairs ministry had previously linked the possibility of meeting to the establishment of a “conducive atmosphere,” absent of “terrorism or violence is perpetrated against India.” The decision to meet even when very little had improved on the ground underlined the rejection of full-scale hostility as a way out of the present imbroglio by both countries.

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However, such commitments to normalize relations have little hope of succeeding as cross border firings strengthen the hardliners in both countries and made the peaceniks and neo-liberals irrelevant.

The need to play to the domestic constituency was evident in each leader’s statement at the UNGA. Sharif used his speech to make a strong pitch for UN intervention to resolve “festering disputes.” He said the UN must remain “attentive” to the protracted issue and the “full realization” of the Kashmiri people’s right to self determination.

Singh, however, asked Pakistan to shut down “terrorist machinery” on its soil and reiterated that there can “never, ever” be a compromise on the territorial integrity of India of which Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part. He also termed Pakistan as the “epicenter” of terrorism.

Passage of time and external pressures can provide a way out of the ongoing hostility at the LoC.

After the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, in which Pakistan based terrorists wreaked havoc in India’s financial capital, nudges from the United States had pushed both countries to restart a peace process.

The irony is, even if frozen ties are to thaw, relations between these two neighbors would remain tenuous, liable to disruption by events and actors alike. The issue of Kashmir is bound to stay far from resolved, owing much to Pakistan’s enduring obsession with what has always been an Indian territory.

Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray, a Singapore-based Security Analyst, served in India’s National Security Council Secretariat. Follow him on Twitter @BibhuRoutray. Read other articles by Bibhu.

  • true indian

    This was the blunder of Nehru that India is suffering now.when Pakistan attacked Kashmir in 1947 and Indian army was on verge of securing all Kashmir idiot Nehru did ceasefire and went into in.if he would give 2 more days to Indian army whole Kashmir would be part of India as Tibet annexed by china is part of china.this was the biggest blunder of idiot Nehru after partition of India.