The Indo-Pakistani conflict
Since mid-2016, tensions between India and Pakistan have been increasing again. There were repeated clashes on the Indian side after a separatist leader was killed. Kashmiri separatist positions on the Pakistani side of the line of control were attacked by Indian military units. According to the Ministry of Defense in New Delhi, this action is in response to the attack on an Indian military base near Uri, in which 18 soldiers were killed. According to press reports, this is the first officially confirmed military action on Pakistani soil since 1971. The UN Secretary General offered himself as a mediator in official statements and called on both states to de-escalate.
The conflict in Kashmir, claimed by Pakistan and India, worsened dramatically in February 2019: After a serious suicide attack in the Indian-controlled part of the Himalayan region in mid-February, the Indian air force launched an attack on Pakistani territory. It was directed at an Islamist group that had claimed the attack for itself. On Wednesday, Pakistan reportedly shot down the Indian pilot’s machine, who has now been released.
There are repeated attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian part of India. But this was the hardest in 30 years. At least 40 members of the CRPF paramilitary police were killed. The suicide bomber of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed was a local Kashmiri from the Indian part, he drove a car loaded with explosives into an Indian troop convoy.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed is an Islamist terrorist group. She wants to liberate the Muslim-majority Kashmir from Indian occupation and force it to join Pakistan. The group has been banned in Pakistan since 2002. Their headquarters are said to be in the Pakistani Punjab, in Bahawalpur. Jaish-e-Mohammed is considered to be the extended arm of the Pakistani secret service. Other deadly attacks were also carried out, for example on the Indian parliament in 2001 and on the Indian Air Force Base Pathankot in 2016.
The question arises as to whether both countries have sufficient political will and sufficient economic incentives in their respective geopolitical situations to advance the Pakistani-Indian peace process.
History of the conflict
According to franciscogardening, the two nuclear powers Pakistan and India have been in conflict since the partition of India and Pakistan’s independence in 1947. Since then, Pakistan and India have fought four armed conflicts with one another (1947, 1965, 1971, 1999). The Indian-Pakistani relations can be characterized as mixed with, on the one hand, very tense phases and phases in which peace efforts are in the foreground. As a result of the first Indo-Pakistani war in 1947, the former principality of Kashmir was divided and has been an internationally disputed area ever since, which is why the UN Military Observer Group is stationed in India and Pakistan in both countries to monitor the ceasefire.
Three of the four conflicts arose directly from the Kashmir question; in the third war (1971) India supported the secession of former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Bilateral relations deteriorated rapidly and the Indian-Pakistani conflict reached a new quality with the nuclearization of the two regional powers in 1998. A year later, the Pakistani military marched into Indian territory, in Kargil, thereby triggering the so-called “Kargil Crisis”. The countries were again on the brink of a war that could only be prevented by American political pressure. The Kargil crisis ultimately led to General Musharraf’s third military coup in Pakistan. The terrorist attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 continued to worsen relations.
The bilateral relations relaxed somewhat in the course of the “Composite Dialogue” initiated by Musharraf, which worked on different areas of conflict and work in parallel. This peace process, which was then described as “irreversible”, was suddenly disrupted by the drastic events of the attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. This again led to tension in relationships with one another.
The Era Sharif Modes
After the victory of the Hindu-natonalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India in May 2014, there was both hope and skepticism about the further development of Indian-Pakistani relations. The Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accepted Modi’s invitation and attended the inauguration of the new Indian Prime Minister. This can be seen as a further confidence-building measure between the two governments. Both prime ministers enjoy a strong mandate in their respective countries and both rely heavily on economic development and growth through increased trade with neighboring countries in the region. But the conflicting and sometimes contradicting stance of the two countries is still evident. While Pakistan speaks publicly of the potential of Indo-Pakistani trade, India continues to insist that Pakistan should crack down on terrorist groups. Another terrorist attack in or against India would mean an abrupt end to the currently very tentative and fragile positive atmosphere. It remains to be seen what concrete effects a Hindu nationalist government on the one hand, and a government in a power struggle with its military and with militant non-state actors, will have on the bilateral relations of the two countries.