Nirmalkumar Mohandoss is an Advocate at the Madras High Court. He has a B.A., B.L., (Hons) from the School of Excellence in Law. He is keenly interested in public policy, and its impact on social issues.
The terrorist attack on Pathankot Air Force Base has shocked the human conscience. While the terrorists were believed to have been neutralized by the evening of January 2, the attack continued for the second day leaving a few Indian men in uniform killed and many more wounded. If initial media reports are to be believed, the attack was carried on by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist outfit working from Pakistan.
The incident assumes significance, particularly due to the fact that Prime Minister Modi met his Pakistani counterpart on a surprise visit to Lahore enroute to New Delhi from Kabul last week. The surprise visit was appreciated by many political analysts and international bodies, who termed it a 'goodwill gesture' likely to ease the Indo-Pak stand-off. However, the Pathankot incident has yet again reminded us that a mere goodwill gesture will no longer ease the Indo-Pak relationship unless the core issues of differences between the two nations are resolved. This is because the relationship between the two countries is stamped with mutual distrust and hence no make-over visits can replace concrete solutions to the problems strangling the relationship.
The idea of Pakistan itself was a result of distrust between leaders advocating the great Indian divide at the time of independence. The following are a few incidents that stand testimonial to the fact that mutual distrust is an integral part of the Indo–Pak relationship:
  • The partition of India was hastily done. Cyril Radcliffe and his men had drawn the boundary lines dividing India and Pakistan in a span of just 6 weeks without much consultation and local investigations. The boundary lines left Indians and Pakistanis disappointed causing distrust of each other. There was no time for the boundary lines to be disputed.
  • The plans for resettlement and rehabilitation of migrants was poorly done (or perhaps not done at all) by the British. This caused lots of blood-shed, killing several millions of people in the largest known migration of humans in the history. Though Indian leaders took efforts to stop killing of Muslims on the Indian side, Pakistani leaders failed to do so. The large causalities of people on both sides dented the relationship between the two nations.
  • The problem of refugees resulted in economic distress to both countries. The large number of slums in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Delhi are direct results of the hasty partition and failure of Pakistan to stop attacks on Hindus on their side.
  • The annexation of Princely States was yet another matter causing distrust between the two nations. Junagadh was annexed forcefully by India despite its rulers attempt to merge with Pakistan. The Nawab took shelter in Pakistan and enjoyed several positions of power later. It is interesting to note that the Dewan of Junagadh at that time was Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto whose descendants have since been powerful in Pakistan and have been the nation’s Prime Ministers.Similarly, Operation Polo in annexing Hyderabad was seen by Pakistan as its diplomatic failure against India.
Similarly, Operation Polo in annexing Hyderabad was seen by Pakistan as its diplomatic failure against India.
  • Pakistan found an opportunity to avenge the ‘Junagadh cause’ by the annexation of J&K. India took the issue as diplomatically as possible by extending support to the State on the condition that it acceded with its territory. The first Indo-Pak war was fought for Kashmir in 1947. Since then both the countries have been holding considerable portions of Kashmir territory. The problem has given rise to terror outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen, which are alleged to instigate terror attacks in India with the help of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
  • The liberation of Bangladesh was seen by Pakistan as India’s attempt to outrage its dignity. Though India moved its military after several rounds of deliberations citing the increasing inflow of East Pakistan refugees, Pakistan had reasons to suspect India’s intention. Indian army’s training and co-ordination with the local liberation force, ‘Mukti Vahini’ raised the question if India’s military action was aimed at stopping the refugee inflow or at liberation of Bangladesh.
  • The Indo-Pak relationship hit hard due to International Politics. Pakistan chose to stay with the US-led Western Powers while Jawaharlal Nehru chose the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). This put Pakistan in the good books of the West, from whom the nation got several million funds in terms of US dollars. All those funds were used only for enhancing Pakistan’s defence capabilities against India. India had no option but to increase its military budget to defend itself over the years.
This also reflected in India’s poor relationship with the West. India, at one point of time was left with no choice but to forge the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation in 1971 (inconsistent with the NAM).
  • Both the countries have always had strained diplomatic relationship. The diplomats are often seen by both sides as ones not representing their Government’s views in essence.
The Indo-Pak relationship can never be complete without discussing the Rajesh Mittal incident. The Indian diplomat, Rajesh Mittal was tortured for several hours on 24th May 1992 by Pakistan against well established principles of International law relating to diplomatic relations. He was subsequently expelled on certain charges. India retaliated by expelling the Pakistani diplomat from India.
  • In May 1998, when India tested five nuclear devices the Indians dubbed it a victory over Pakistan’s unequal army strength. In less than 2 weeks, Pakistan test fired its own nuclear device and showed that it was not second to India’s nuclear capability. Since then both the countries have allegedly piled up nuclear weapons.
  • The timing of the Kargil war should be taken note of. Prime Minister Vajpayee travelled by bus to Lahore to meet his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Nawaz in February 1999. Like the recent visit by PM Modi, Vajpayee’s visit received wide acclamation. But within three months, Pakistani forces occupied the Kargil district under India’s control. The subsequent Indo-Pak war resulted in high casualties on both sides. India had to learn that Pakistan could not be trusted.
  • Terrorist outfits operating from Pakistan have carried out several attacks on the Indian soil. This includes the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and the deadly Mumbai attack in 2008, only to name a few. Alleged perpetrators like Mohamed Hafeez have been roaming free in Pakistan. Indian dossiers against suspected Pakistan nationals are often rejected by Pakistan. Despite several deliberations, it still remains that Pakistan sponsors terrorists against India.
Similarly, the Pakistan establishment often suspects an Indian hand in the terror attacks from Baloch separatists.
  • The failure of Democratic exercise in Pakistan is one of the major causes for the Indo-Pak distrust. The military leaders often take hard lines against Indian political establishment. Even the civil leaders are dominated by the Pakistan military, thus leaving little scope for inter–governmental peace co-operation.
It is therefore quite clear that unless the mutual distrust is eliminated by settling core issues of differences, peace between India and Pakistan is a distant dream. Both countries can not settle these issues in the near future due to varied factors. The political establishments in both the countries fear consequent internal disturbance to give up their official positions against each other. Likewise, international powers like the US and China would never want India and Pakistan to forge friendship. The US wants India to deter China even while it cannot give up on Pakistan, which has developed intimacy with China in recent years. Similarly, China needs Pakistan to counter India’s growing influence in the South China Sea.
Whatever said and done, a mere surprise visit and friendly hugs of political leaders cannot resolve the Indo-Pak problem any time soon.