Prof. Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, Dean, Faculty of Contemporary Studies, National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad was requested to visit Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and give a lecture on “Evolving Relations between Pakistan and India” to the IPRI scholars on February 10, 2014.
Dr Cheema opined that since 1947 to 2014, Pakistan-India relations could be divided into three phases. First phase—1947 to 1972. In this phase, three major wars in 1947, 1965 and 1971 and a minor war of Rann-of-Kuch were fought between the two. This was obviously a very difficult period as things started getting worse right from the beginning in Pakistan’s history. He also commented that British, previously applying the principle of “divide and rule,” left India on the principle of “divide and run” and left many things incomplete in the sub-continent which, with the passage of time, were further complicated. Second phase—1972 to 2004. In this phase, although there were no major wars between the two but there had been many loaded crises i.e., 1986-87 Brasstacks, 1990 freedom struggle of Kashmiris, the 1999 Kargil crisis, and the troops confrontation in 2001-02. Unlike Pakistani literature, the Indian literature puts Kargil crisis as a major war between India and Pakistan. The third phase—2004 to 2014. In this phase, the war on terror started, there was successful 12th SAARC Summit, and the peace process was initiated in 2004. Dr Cheema identified some supporting factors for peace process i.e., both the states had probably realized that the military approach did not provide the desired dividends, intensification of efforts on the part of major powers, somehow favourable situation towards political approach vis-à-vis Pakistan in the Indian parliament, and the people on both sides were favouring the political/peace process. Though in the initial years, the peace process could get dividends and there were three areas where some tangible improvements were made namely people to people contact, trade, and the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). But since there was always an element of mistrust between the two, it often hampered the peace process. Dr Cheema also identified some factors for the existing mistrust i.e., historical legacy between the two, different security policies/approaches of the two states, different domestic compulsions, and the negative images and perceptions of each other.
Dr Cheema was of the view that Indians had played well in diverting Pakistan’s attention from the main issue i.e., Kashmir issue to other issues i.e., Sir Creek, Water, Siachen etc. And Indian and Pakistani literature was flooded with these issues giving lesser coverage/importance to Kashmir issue. Even the Kashmiris started accusing Pakistan for leaving aside its original stance in the true spirit of UN Resolutions on Kashmir. Indians always applied the delaying techniques very well as they recognised the weakness in their stance and the Indian military exerted tremendous amount of influence invisibly in the policy formulation in India. So, even if plebiscite is held in Kashmir, Pakistan might win the case with a slight margin as things have changed in Kashmir a bit. Dr Cheema commented that as compared to Indian media Pakistan’s media was too much independent and sometimes damaged national interests. Media did not play its role objectively on Kashmir issue. At present, the overall international environment does not favour Pakistan so it would be wrong to be optimistic that something good would come out on Kashmir from major powers.
International environment favoured India in the 21st century due to its economy and getting aligned with the United States (US), Dr Cheema said. Building India against China would not serve the US interest in the long run as Indians would squeeze everything whatever they could and give almost nothing in return to the US. Indians normally have a well thought-out mechanism as compared to Pakistan being reactionary most of the time in its policy vis-à-vis India or the US. At the same time, China would never leave Pakistan in this equation as China needs Pakistan to have a check on India and economically Gwadar Port would attract China in the future.
Over the years, Pakistan and India have been behaving realistically recognizing the fact that only reconciliation would benefit both. As far as India is concerned, Pakistan has very limited options due to rising India economically. The first thing Pakistan must do is the revival of its economy and making peace within as economic stability has the direct linkage with defence capabilities of any nation. India has been moving towards modern weapons due to its huge economy. Pakistan has to do well in internal security and energy sector by having a comprehensive strategy for next decade.
There would be tug of war between Pakistan and India on Afghanistan in years to come as Indians had always enjoyed good amount of relationship with Afghanistan in the past too. The US had brought India in Afghanistan and wanted to give it a bigger role due to the size of its economy so that India could invest in Afghanistan. So, as compared to India, Pakistan’s position is weaker in Afghanistan. Nonetheless various scenarios can be forecasted in Afghanistan once the US pulls out i.e., the status quo, the negotiated settlement among all the factions, or a civil war.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the speaker and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.