Guide: India and Pakistan, a Brief History
India and Pakistan gained their independence in August 1947. The two nations have had troubled relations since the First Kashmir War that took place in October 1947. This guide will give a brief history on why the conflicts arose, what is being disputed, Indo-Pakistani relations today, and what the future might hold for future relations.
Why conflicts arose
India and Pakistan went to war three times: First Kashmir War (1947), Second Kashmir War (1965) and Kargil War (1999). The dispute is over the Kashmir-Jammu region, where the region's population is made up of 67% Muslims. After independence, Kashmir’s maharaja (the leader of the region), Hari Singh, wanted Kashmir to become independent however decided to join India in October 1947, causing the First Kashmir War. Although the two signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire as recommended by the UN, the ceasefire has been violated on many occasions.
In July 1989, an insurgence began in Kashmir that was waged against Indian rule and is still ongoing, claiming tens of thousands of lives so far. India accused Pakistan of causing unrest in the region by fuelling militant separatists in Kashmir. However, Pakistan denied these accusations. With this in mind, we can say that the main reason behind the Indo-Pakistani conflict is the battle for Kashmir, but why are the two nations fighting over it?
The importance of Kashmir
Kashmir has glaciers and freshwater which supplies not only Kashmir but also India. In addition, the water flow provides electricity to a billion people in India, making it a vital source of energy. On the other hand, Pakistan relies on the water from the region for its agricultural sector. Since both nations have a growing population with increasing needs, the importance of Kashmir has grown.
To satisfy the Indian population’s increasing need for electricity, India wants to develop more hydro facilities. However, Pakistan worries that India may use water that is necessary for irrigation. This means that India could use water scarcity as a weapon against Pakistan.
Global warming has caused Himalayan glaciers to lose 174 gigatonnes of water, creating an existential threat that is increasing fear to both nations.
The Indo-Pakistani relations today
After attacks that targeted an Indian paramilitary camp in 2017, an Indian army base in 2018 and a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces in 2019, relations aren’t getting better. India revoked Article 370, which gave the region a certain amount of autonomy that included having its own constitution, separate flag, and freedom to make laws. This move further increased tension between India and Pakistan as it was a move that stunned and angered Pakistan. In response, Pakistan cut air and land ties with India, suspending trade and railway services.
In addition, Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism led to India asking Pakistan to reduce its New Delhi embassy staff, which also led to Pakistan asking the same of India’s embassy staff in Islamabad. After several attempts from Pakistan to raise the Kashmir issue to the international community, India responded by saying the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter and urged Pakistan to stop the anti-India propaganda. As a response, Pakistan has broken the ceasefire many times, which has led to casualties on both sides.
The future of Indo-Pakistani relations
With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the two economies, global warming hitting Kashmir’s resources and escalations leading to deaths on both sides, the only way to start bettering the relations will be through talks. Violating ceasefire agreements, sponsoring cross-border terrorism, and continuing to plumb relations to new depths will further complicate the relations between the two nations.
If the situation keeps escalating, it will be too late for a diplomatic solution beneficial to both sides. If the situation is not resolved in the near future, the international community may need to intervene to prevent a possible catastrophe that would lead to crippling consequences for both India and Pakistan.
For more information on this topic, head over to our section on Foreign Affairs.