India’s Neighbourhood – Pakistan The Fountainhead of World Terrorism

anil chopra, air power asia, India-Pakistan, Relations, Terrorism, Nuclear Threat

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is the world’s fifth-most populous country with a population of around 212 million. It has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. It is the 33rd-largest country by area, spanning 881,913 square kilometres. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China to the northeast through Pakistan occupied Kashmir. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.

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Carved out of the India by the British, its culture and history are intertwined with the broader Indian subcontinent. Pakistan gained independence in 1947 as a homeland for Indian Muslims following the Pakistan Movement, which sought statehood for the Muslim-majority regions of British India through partition. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic. An ethnic civil war and Indian military intervention in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the new country of Bangladesh. In 1973, Pakistan adopted a new constitution which stipulated that all laws are to conform to the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah. Pakistan adopted a parliamentary system with periodic elections, however there have been many military coups in Pakistan beginning 1958. Attempts began in 1951 itself. Pakistan’s political history since independence has been characterized by periods of military rule, political instability and conflicts with India. Pakistan has been under military rule in the periods 1958 – 1971, 1977 – 1988, and 1999 – 2008.

Transfers During Partition. Image Source: Wikipedia

Pakistan has the sixth-largest standing armed forces in the world and is also a nuclear power as well as a declared nuclear-weapons state. The country continues to face challenging problems, including poverty, illiteracy and corruption. Pakistan is a member of the UN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the OIC, the Commonwealth of Nations, the SAARC, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, and is a major non-NATO ally.

India Pakistan Border States. Image Source:

India Pakistan Relations Overview

Relations between India and Pakistan have been complex and largely hostile due to a number of historical and political events. Relations between the two states have been defined by the violent partition of British India in 1947 which started the Kashmir conflict, and the numerous military conflicts fought between the two nations. Consequently, their relationship has been plagued by hostility and suspicion. Northern India and Pakistan somewhat overlap in certain demographics and shared languages, mainly Punjabi, Sindhi, and Hindustani.

After the dissolution of the British Raj in 1947, two new sovereign nations were formed—the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. Partition displaced up to 12.5 million people, with a loss of life of up to a million people. India emerged as a secular nation with a Hindu majority population and a large Muslim minority, while Pakistan, with a Muslim majority population and a significant Hindu minority, later became an Islamic Republic. Although its constitution guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all faiths, but the Islamic laws and persecution of minorities resulted in migration of many of the Hindu minority.

The two Union Territories formally came into existence on 31st October, 2019. Image Source: ANI

Though the two established diplomatic relations, but the violent partition and reciprocal territorial claims quickly overshadowed their relationship. Since their independence, the two countries have fought three major wars, as well as one undeclared war, and have been involved in numerous armed skirmishes and military standoffs. The Kashmir conflict is the main centre-point of all of these conflicts with the exception of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and the Bangladesh Liberation War, which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan, and formation of Bangladesh.

There have been numerous attempts to improve the relationship, notably the Shimla summit, the Agra summit, and the Lahore summit. Since the early 1980s, relations between the two nations have grown increasingly sour, particularly after the Siachen conflict, intensification of the Kashmir insurgency in 1989, Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998, and the 1999 Kargil War. Certain confidence-building measures, such as the 2003 ceasefire agreement and the Delhi–Lahore Bus service, have been successful in de-escalating tensions. However, these efforts have been impeded by periodic terrorist attacks. The 2001 Indian Parliament attack brought the two nations to the brink of a nuclear war. The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, which killed 68 civilians (most of whom were Pakistani), was also a crucial turning point in relations. Additionally, the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by Pakistani militants resulted in a severe blow to the ongoing India–Pakistan peace talks.

Kargil War. Pakistan Incursions. Image Source: Image: through

After a brief thaw following the election of new governments in both nations, bilateral discussions again stalled after the 2016 Pathankot attack. In September 2016, a terrorist attack on India’s Uri Brigade HQs killed 19 Indian Army soldiers, the deadliest such attack in years. India’s blamed that the attack had been orchestrated by a Pakistan-supported jihadist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). The attack sparked a military confrontation across the Line of Control, with an escalation in ceasefire violations and further militant attacks on Indian security forces. On 28 September, eleven days after the attack, the Indian Army conducted retaliatory “surgical strikes” on the “launch-pads” used by militants in Pakistan administered Kashmir. Since 2016, the ongoing confrontation, continued terrorist attacks, and an increase in nationalist rhetoric on both sides has resulted in the collapse of bilateral relations, with little expectation that they will recover. . Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) decided to ban all Pakistani actors, actresses and technicians working in India till the situation returns to normal. The Pakistani government responded in October with a blanket ban on all Indian television and radio programming in Pakistan. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), ruled out the possibility of reviving bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan in the near future, and asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) to not group Indian and Pakistan cricket teams together in international tournaments. Notably, following the 2019 Pulwama attack, the Indian government revoked Pakistan’s most favoured nation trade status, which it had granted to Pakistan in 1996. India also increased the custom duty to 200% which affected the trade of Pakistani apparel and cement. Meanwhile on 26 February 2019, Indian Air Force launched an airstrike on JeM training camp at Jaba Top near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.

According to a 2017 BBC World Service poll, only 5% of Indians view Pakistan’s influence positively, with 85% expressing a negative view, while 11% of Pakistanis view India’s influence positively, with 62% expressing a negative view. In August 2019, following the approval of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill in the Indian Parliament, which revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, further tension was brought between the two countries, with Pakistan downgrading their diplomatic ties, closing its airspace, and suspending bilateral trade with India. All trade between the two gets routed through Dubai.

Line of Control. Image Source:

1947-48 War in Kashmir

Since the partition of British India in 1947 the two countries have been involved in a number of wars, conflicts and military stand-offs. Jammu and Kashmir, the largest of the princely states, had a majority Muslim population, but significant Hindu population, and was ruled by the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh. Pakistan Army backed tribal Islamic forces attacked and occupied parts of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. The Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession of the princely state to the Dominion of India, and sought military support. The two sides fought a war till mid-1948, by when India had regained significant territory back. However the then Prime Minister of India chose to go to the, still young, United Nations for arbitration. The fronts solidified gradually along what came to be known as the Line of Control. A formal cease-fire was declared at 23:59 on the night of 1 January 1949. India had control of about two-thirds of the state (Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh) whereas Pakistan gained roughly a third of Kashmir (Pakistan occupied Kashmir, and Gilgit–Baltistan). The Pakistan controlled areas are collectively referred to as Pakistan administered Kashmir.

Bengal Refugee Crisis -1949

In 1949, India recorded close to 1 million Hindu refugees, who flooded into West Bengal and other states from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), owing to communal violence, intimidation and repression from authorities. The plight of the refugees outraged Hindus and Indian nationalists, and the refugee population drained the resources of Indian states, which were unable to absorb them. While not ruling out war, Prime Minister Nehru and Sardar Patel invited Liaquat Ali Khan for talks in Delhi. Although many Indians termed this appeasement, Nehru signed a pact with Liaquat Ali Khan that pledged both nations to the protection of minorities and creation of minority commissions. Khan and Nehru also signed an agreement, and committed to resolving bilateral conflicts through peaceful means. Some of the Hindus returned to East Pakistan, but the thaw in relations did not last long, primarily owing to the Kashmir conflict.

Nehru and Liaquat Ali sign pact. Image Source:i

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was a culmination of skirmishes that took place between April 1965 and September 1965 between Pakistan and India. The conflict began following Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar, which was designed to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against Indian rule. India retaliated by launching a full-scale military attack on West Pakistan. The seventeen-day war caused thousands of casualties on both sides and witnessed the largest engagement of armoured vehicles and the largest tank battle since World War II. Hostilities between the two countries ended after a ceasefire was declared through UNSC Resolution 211 following a diplomatic intervention by the Soviet Union and the United States, and the subsequent issuance of the Tashkent Declaration. Most of the battles were fought by opposing infantry and armoured units, with substantial backing from air forces, and naval operations. India had the upper hand over Pakistan when the ceasefire was declared. The conflict is seen as a strategic and political defeat for Pakistan, as it had neither succeeded in fomenting insurrection in Kashmir nor had it been able to gain meaningful support at an international level. India’s victory was nearly total. India accepted cease-fire only after it had occupied 1,900 sq. km, and Pakistan had made marginal gains of sq. km of territory. During and after the conflict, both India and Pakistan felt betrayed by the perceived lack of support by the western powers for their respective positions. USA and Britain imposed embargo on military aid to the opposing sides. As a consequence, India and Pakistan openly developed closer relationships with the Soviet Union and China, respectively.

The then Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and army officers atop a captured Pakistani tank. Image Source: Indian Army

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation

This war was precipitated by the crisis created by the political battle brewing in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Leader of East Pakistan, and Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leaders of West Pakistan. This would culminate in the declaration of Independence of Bangladesh from the state system of Pakistan. Following Operation Searchlight and the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities, it is estimated that members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias killed between 300,000 and 3,000,000 civilians in East Pakistan, and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women and girls in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. About 10 million Bengalis in East Pakistan took refuge in neighbouring India. India intervened in the ongoing Bangladesh liberation movement.

Governor House in Dhaka after four 28 Squadron MiG 21s struck on 14 December 1971. Image Source:

The war began with pre-emptive aerial strikes on 11 Indian air stations on 03 December 1971, which led to the commencement of hostilities with Pakistan and Indian entry into the war of independence in East Pakistan on the side of Bengali nationalist forces. Lasting just 13 days, it is one of the shortest wars in history which ended with the fall of Dacca (Dhaka) on 16 December 1971. Indian and Pakistani militaries simultaneously clashed on the eastern and western fronts. The war ended after Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi, the commander of Pakistan Eastern Command, and uncle of present Pakistan PM Imran Khan Niazi, signing the instrument of surrender in Dhaka on 16 Dec 1971, in the presence of India’s Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora. It also marked the formation of East Pakistan as the new nation of Bangladesh. 93,000 Pakistani servicemen were taken prisoner by the Indian Army.  India captured around 15,010 square kilometres of Pakistan territory in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Pakistani Punjab and Sindh sectors but gifted it back to Pakistan in the Shimla Agreement of 1972, as a gesture of goodwill. Pakistan lost half its navy, a quarter of its air force and a third of its army.

Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi, the commander of Pakistan Eastern Command, signing the instrument of surrender in Dhaka on 16 Dec 1971, in the presence of India’s Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora. Image Source: Ministry of Defence

Kargil War – 1999

During early 1999, Pakistani troops infiltrated across the Line of Control (LoC) and occupied Indian Territory mostly in the Kargil district. India responded by launching a major military and diplomatic offensive to drive out the Pakistani infiltrators. Two months into the conflict, Indian troops had slowly retaken most of the ridges that were encroached by the infiltrators. According to official count, an estimated 75%–80% of the intruded area and nearly all high ground was back under Indian control. Fearing large-scale escalation in military conflict, the international community, led by the United States, increased diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to withdraw forces from remaining Indian Territory. Faced with the possibility of international isolation, the already fragile Pakistani economy was weakened further. The morale of Pakistani forces after the withdrawal declined as many units of the Northern Light Infantry suffered heavy casualties. The Pakistan government refused to accept the dead bodies of many officers, an issue that provoked outrage and protests in the Northern Areas. Pakistan initially did not acknowledge many of its casualties, but Nawaz Sharif later said that over 4,000 Pakistani troops were killed in the operation and that Pakistan had lost the conflict. By the end of July 1999, organized hostilities in the Kargil district had ceased. The war was a major military defeat for the Pakistani Army. The war is the most recent example of high-altitude warfare in mountainous terrain, and as such posed significant logistical problems for the combating sides. It is also the sole instance of direct, conventional warfare between nuclear-armed states.

IAF Mirage 2000 dropping Bombs during Kargil War. Image Source: Indian Air Force

In a national security meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after the war, the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Fasih Bokhari called for a court-martial against General Musharraf. Sharif placing the onus of the Kargil attacks squarely on the army chief Pervez Musharraf, there was an atmosphere of uneasiness between the two. On 12 October 1999, General Musharraf staged a bloodless coup d’état, ousting Nawaz Sharif. Benazir Bhutto, an opposition leader in the parliament and former prime minister, called the Kargil War “Pakistan’s greatest blunder”. Many ex-officials of the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan’s principal intelligence agency) also believed that “Kargil was a waste of time” and “could not have resulted in any advantage” on the larger issue of Kashmir. A retired Pakistan Army’s Lieutenant-General Ali Kuli Khan, lambasted the war as “a disaster bigger than the East Pakistan tragedy”, adding that the plan was “flawed in terms of its conception, tactical planning and execution” that ended in “sacrificing so many soldiers”. The Pakistani media criticised the whole plan and the eventual climb down from the Kargil heights since there were no gains to show for the loss of lives and it only resulted in international condemnation. Despite calls by many, no public commission of inquiry was set up in Pakistan to investigate the people responsible for initiating the conflict. A statement in June 2008 by a former X Corps commander and Director-General of Military Intelligence (M.I.) that time, Lieutenant-General (retired) Jamshed Gulzar Kiani said that: “As Prime minister, Nawaz Sharif was never briefed by the army on the Kargil attack, reignited the demand for a probe of the episode by legal and political groups. Though the Kargil conflict had brought the Kashmir dispute into international focus, which was one of Pakistan’s aims, it had done so in negative circumstances that eroded its credibility, since the infiltration came just after a peace process between the two countries had been concluded as part of Lahore Bus visit by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee. President Clinton’s move to ask Islamabad to withdraw hundreds of armed militants from Indian-administered Kashmir was viewed by many in Pakistan as indicative of a clear shift in US policy against Pakistan. One US Intelligence study is reported to have stated that Kargil was yet another example of Pakistan’s lack of grand strategy, repeating the follies of the previous wars. To summarise, Kargil was India’s intelligence failure and Pakistan’s miscalculated adventure of General Parvez Musharraf and his close collaborators.

Operation Meghdoot. The Tale of Capturing of Siachen Glacier. Image Source:

Other Armed Engagements

Apart from the aforementioned wars, there have been skirmishes between the two nations from time to time. Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir has been a cause for heightened tensions. India has also accused Pakistan-backed militant groups of executing several terrorist attacks across India. In 1984, India launched Operation Meghdoot capturing all of the Siachen Glacier. Further clashes erupted in the glacial area in 1985, 1987 and 1995 as Pakistan sought, without success, to oust India from its stronghold. An insurgency in Balochistan province of Pakistan is also a cause of tensions. Pakistan accuses India of causing the insurgency with the help of ousted Baloch leaders, militant groups and terrorist organizations like the Balochistan Liberation Army. According to Pakistani Officials these militants are trained in neighbouring Afghanistan. In 2016, Pakistan alleged that an Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani forces during a counter-intelligence operation in Balochistan. Operation Brass-tacks was conducted by India between November 1986 and March 1987. Pakistani mobilisation in response raised tensions and fears that it could lead to another war between the two neighbours. India blamed Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, for the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001. Military build-up was initiated by India in response to the attack, codenamed “Operation Parakram”. It prompted the 2001–2002 India–Pakistan standoff and brought both sides close to war. By January 2002, India had mobilized around 500,000 troops and three armoured divisions on Pakistan’s border, concentrated along the Line of Control in Kashmir. Pakistan responded similarly, deploying around 300,000 troops to that region. Tensions de-escalated following international diplomatic mediation which resulted in the October 2002 withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani troops from the international border.

Indian Parliament Attack 2001. Image Source:

A stand-off between the two nations followed the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Following ten coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India’s largest city, tensions heightened between the two countries since India claimed interrogation results alleging Pakistan’s ISI supporting the attackers while Pakistan denied it. Pakistan placed its air force on alert and moved troops to the Indian border, voicing concerns about proactive movements of the Indian Army and the Indian government’s possible plans to launch attacks on Pakistani soil. The tension defused in short time and Pakistan moved its troops away from border. On 29 September 2016, border skirmishes between India and Pakistan began following reported “surgical strikes” by India against militant launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Kashmir “killing a large number of terrorists”. The Indian operation was in retaliation for a militant attack on the Indian army at Uri on 18 September in Jammu and Kashmir that left 19 soldiers dead. In the succeeding days and months, India and Pakistan continued to exchange fire along the border in Kashmir, resulting in dozens of military and civilian casualties on both sides.  On 14 February 2019, a suicide attack on convoy of India’s CRPF resulted in death of at least 40 troops near Pulwama in J&K. The responsibility of attack was claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad. 12 days later on 26 February 2019, Indian Mirage 2000 jets crossed international border to conduct air strikes on the JeM terrorist training camp at Jaba Top near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. India’s claim of killing nearly 300 terrorists was rejected by Pakistan. The incidents escalated the tension between India and Pakistan. Pakistan Navy’s Naval Air Arm Breguet Atlantique patrol plane, carrying 16 people on board, was shot down by the Indian Air Force for violation of airspace. The episode took place in the Rann of Kutch on 10 August 1999, just a month after the Kargil War, creating a tense atmosphere between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan Navy’s Naval Air Arm Breguet Atlantique patrol plane. Image Credit: Peter Steinmann Source:

Nuclear Weapons

On 18 May 1974 India detonated an 8-kiloton nuclear device at Pokhran Test Range, becoming the first nation to become nuclear capable outside the five permanent members of United Nations Security Council. It is referred to as the Pokhran-I or “Smiling Buddha”.  Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto swearing to reciprocate India quoting “My countrymen would prefer having a nuclear bomb even if they have to eat grass”. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Chairman Munir Ahmed Khan said that the test would force Pakistan to test its own nuclear bomb. In the 1980s a series of 24 different cold tests were conducted by PAEC, led by chairman Munir Ahmad Khan under extreme secrecy and are referred as the Kirana-I. The tunnels at Kirana Hills, Sargodha, are reported to have been bored after the Chagai nuclear test sites, it is widely believed that the tunnels were constructed sometime between 1979 and 1983. As in Chagai, the tunnels at Kirana Hills had been bored and then sealed and this task was also undertaken by PAEC’s DTD. Later due to excessive US intelligence and satellite focus on the Kirana Hills site, it was abandoned and nuclear weapons testing was shifted to the Kala Chitta Range.

Pokhran-II “Operation Shakti”. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, George Fernandes, APJ Abdul Kalam, R Chidambaram, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Pramod Mahajan in Pokhran after the nuclear tests on May 11 and 13, 1998. Image Source:

Pokhran-II “Operation Shakti” was on 11 May 1998 when India detonated another five nuclear devices at Pokhran Test Range. With jubilation and large scale approval from the Indian society came International sanctions as a reaction to this test, the most vehement reaction of all coming from Pakistan. Pakistan vowed to match India’s nuclear capability with statements like: “We are in a headlong arms race on the subcontinent”. Chagai-I “Youm-e-Takbir” was launched within half a month of Pokhran-II. On 28 May 1998 Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices. Pakistani public, like the Indian, reacted with a celebration and heightened sense of nationalism and becoming the only Muslim nuclear power. Two days later, on 30 May 1998, Pakistan detonated a sixth nuclear device (Chagai-II), completing its own series of underground tests with this being the last the two nations have carried out to date. The nuclear conflict between both countries is of passive strategic nature with nuclear doctrine of Pakistan stating a first strike policy, although the strike would only be initiated if and only if, the Pakistan Armed Forces are unable to halt an invasion or a nuclear strike is launched against Pakistan, whereas India has a declared policy of no first use.

Chagai-I “Youm-e-Takbir”. Image Source:

International Positions in India Pakistan wars

The Soviet Union remained neutral during the 1965 war and played a pivotal role in negotiating the peace agreement between India and Pakistan. The Soviet Union provided diplomatic and military assistance to India during the 1971 war. In response to the US and UK’s deployment of the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and HMS Eagle, Moscow sent nuclear submarines and warships with anti-ship missiles in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, respectively. The United States did not give any military aid to Pakistan in the 1965 war. The United States provided diplomatic and military support to Pakistan during the 1971 war by sending USS Enterprise into the Indian Ocean. The United States did not support Pakistan during the Kargil War, and successfully pressured the Pakistani administration to end hostilities. China had helped Pakistan in various wars primarily with diplomatic support. Russia has maintained a non-belligerent policy for both sides. Russia helped negotiate peace in 2001–02 and helped divert the 2008 crisis.

Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) Rivers. Image Source:

The India Pakistan Water Dispute

The India-Pakistan water conflict is an example of conflict arising from struggle from scarce water resource. The Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan clarifies the position of river basin resource sharing. But issue remains contentious. The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed in Karachi on 19 September 1960 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan. The Treaty gives control over the waters of the three “eastern rivers”, the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej with a mean annual flow of 33 million acre-feet (MAF) to India, while control over the waters of the three “western rivers”, the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum with a mean annual flow of 80 MAF — to Pakistan. India was allocated about 16% of the total water carried by the Indus system while Pakistan was allocated the remainder. The treaty allows India to use the western river waters for limited irrigation use and unlimited non-consumptive use for such applications as power generation, navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. It lays down detailed regulations for India in building projects over the western rivers. The preamble of the treaty recognises the rights and obligations of each country in the optimum use of water from the Indus system in a spirit of goodwill, friendship and cooperation. This has not alleviated the Pakistani fears that India could potentially create floods or droughts in Pakistan, especially in times of war. Since the ratification of the treaty in 1960, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars, despite engaging in several military conflicts. Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty. The Indus Waters Treaty is considered one of the most successful water sharing endeavours in the world today.

Baglihar dam on the Chenab river in Ramban district. Image Source: The Tribune

During the late 1990s, India constructed a hydro-electric plant (Baglihar Dam) in Ramban district along Chenab River. This river is one of the tributaries of the Indus River and was designated by the Indus Treaty for use by Pakistan. Though the activity is well covered by IWT, it increased tension between both countries in attempts to control this water resource. There is a dispute revolves around the construction of a hydro-electric plant along a tributary of Indus, which is Kishenganga River (Neelum River). In 2009 its water capacity was 1200 cubic meters while in 1950 it was 5000 cubic meters. This figure is expected to reduce to 800 cubic meters over the next decade. Although India is defending its right to construct the dam, Pakistan is raising several issues over the project. Climate change will deplete water in times to come and may cause further friction. The Pakistani population is increasing gradually and is set to reach 250 million within the next decade. Pakistan has poor water storage techniques and facilities. A US report, released in 2012, had said that beyond 2022, the use of water as a weapon of war or a tool of terrorism will become more likely. India is a responsible state and unlikely to do so.

India-Afghanistan Relations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in New Delhi .Image Source:

Difference on Afghanistan Approach

Afghanistan and Pakistan have had their own historic rivalry over their border, the Durand Line, which numerous Afghan governments have refused to recognize as the border. This has led to strong tensions between the two countries and even military confrontations. Pakistan has long accused Afghanistan of harbouring Baloch separatist rebels and attempting to sponsor separatist tendencies amongst its Pashtun and Baloch populations. In the 1970s, then under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan began supporting Islamist factions in Afghanistan. These factions proved rebellious for the Afghan government that was friendly to the Soviet Union and India. The later Soviet intervention in Afghanistan to prevent further escalation and eventual Islamist takeover of the country proved disastrous afterwards. The United States and its allies feared direct Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and began aiding Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Mujaheddin, in hopes of crippling the Soviet Union. The Soviet-Afghan war turned out to be a stalemate with heavy casualties on all sides and costly for the Soviets. Under international agreement, the Soviets withdrew.

Pakistan Afghanistan Border. Image Source:

But various Afghan factions fought one another and their external supporters, including the Soviet Union, Iran, Pakistan and others disagreed on which should be in power. Continued rival proxy support led to the civil war, in which Pakistan supported in the Taliban, seeking to secure its interests in Afghanistan and providing strategic support, while India and Afghanistan’s other neighbours backed the Northern Alliance. After the Taliban defeated the Northern Alliance in much of Afghanistan in the Afghan Civil War (1996-2001), the Taliban regime continued to be supported by Pakistan – one of the three countries to do so – before the 11 September attacks. India firmly opposed the Taliban and criticized Pakistan for supporting it. India established its links with the Northern Alliance as India officially recognized their government, with the United Nations. India’s relations with Afghanistan, Pakistan’s neighbour, and its increasing presence there has irked Pakistan.

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Baloch nationalism 

Baloch nationalism in its modern form began in the form of the Anjuman-e-Ittehad-e-Balochan (Organisation for Unity of the Baloch) based in Mastung in the 1920s, led by Yousaf Aziz Magsi, Abdul Aziz Kurd and others. The aim of the group was to establish political and constitutional reform in the State of Kalat; end of British imperialism; abolition of the sardari-jirga system; and for the eventual unification of all Baloch lands into an independent state. Simultaneously with the formation of the Anjuman, Baloch intellectuals in Karachi formed a nationalist organisation, called the Baloch League. In February 1937, the Anjuman reorganised and became the Kalat State National Party, carrying on the Anjuman’s political agenda of an independent united state of Balochistan. They demand the restoration of the ancient Khanate of Kalat, which was abolished in 1955 AD.  The party was dominated by more secular-minded, anti-imperialist and populist elements, such as Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Mir Gul Khan Naseer and Abdul Aziz Kurd. When parliamentary elections were held in the State of Kalat, the party was the largest winners with a considerable majority.

It is a movement that claims the Baloch people, an ethno-linguistic group mainly found in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan are a distinct nation. The movement propagates the view that Muslims are not a nation and that ethnic loyalty must surpass religious loyalty (the opposite of the concept behind the creation of Pakistan). The Baloch view has been confirmed by both the 1971 independence of East Pakistan and the discrimination many Muhajir people have historically faced within Pakistan. A majority (67 percent) of Balochistan’s population favour greater provincial autonomy and independence. Baloch nationalism is mostly popular in southern and eastern parts of Balochistan. The Baloch nationalist movement’s demands have ranged from greater cultural, economic and political rights, to political autonomy, to outright secession and the creation of an independent state of Balochistan. The movement is secular. The movement claims to receive considerable support from the Baloch diaspora in Oman, the UAE, Sweden, Norway, and other countries. Pakistan has repeatedly made claims that the Baloch nationalists have received funding from India, although these have been denied by India. Similarly, Afghanistan has acknowledged providing covert support to the Baloch nationalist militants. In 1960s and 1970s, Republic of Afghanistan provided sanctuary to Baloch militants. Republic of Afghanistan had established training camps in Kandahar to train Baloch militants and also to provide arms and ammunition.

Balochistan Map. Image Source:

In 2017, the World Baloch Organisation placed advertisements on taxis in London to say #FreeBalochistan along with slogans such as “Stop enforced disappearances” and “Save the Baloch people”. These were initially allowed but later denied permission by Transport for London. The World Baloch Organisation claimed that this was a result of pressure from the Pakistani Government after the British High Commissioner in Islamabad was summoned to appear before the Pakistani Foreign Secretary.

The Indian embassy in Kabul was attacked with a suicide bomb on 7 July 2008 at 8:30 AM local time. US intelligence officials suggested that Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency had planned the attack. Pakistan tried to deny any responsibility, but United States confronted Pakistan with evidence and warned serious action. Pakistan has been accused by India, Afghanistan, the United States and the United Kingdom, of involvement in terrorism in Kashmir and Afghanistan. In July 2009, former President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari admitted that the Pakistani government had “created and nurtured” terrorist groups to achieve its short-term foreign policy goals. According to an analysis published by Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution in 2008 Pakistan was the world’s “most active” state sponsor of terrorism including aiding groups and Pakistan has long aided a range of terrorist groups fighting against India in Kashmir and is a major sponsor of Taliban forces fighting the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan.

Insurgents attacked Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly. Image Source:

Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir

Pakistan military and the ISI have provided covert support to terrorist groups active in Kashmir, including the al-Qaeda affiliate Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistan has denied any involvement in terrorist activities in Kashmir, arguing that it only provides political and moral support to the secessionist groups who wish to escape Indian rule. Many Kashmiri militant groups also maintain their headquarters in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, which is cited as further proof by the Indian government. Journalist Stephen Suleyman Schwartz notes that several militant and criminal groups are “backed by senior officers in the Pakistani army, the country’s ISI intelligence establishment and other armed bodies of the state.” Insurgents attacked Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly using a car bomb on 1 October 2001, killing 27 people. The dead bodies of the terrorists and the data recovered from them revealed that Pakistan was solely responsible for the activity. On 13 July 2003, armed men of the Lashkar-e-Toiba threw hand grenades at the Qasim Nagar market in Srinagar and then fired on civilians standing nearby killing 27 and injuring many more. Abdul Ghani Lone, a prominent All Party Hurriyat Conference leader, was assassinated by an unidentified gunmen during a memorial rally in Srinagar. A car bomb exploded near an armoured Indian Army vehicle in the famous Church Lane area in Srinagar on 20 July 2005 killing four Indian Army personnel, one civilian and the suicide bomber. Terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attack. A terrorist attack on 29 July 2005 at Srinigar’s city centre, Budshah Chowk, killed two and left more than 17 people injured. Most of those injured were media journalists. On 18 October 2005, a suspected man killed Jammu and Kashmir’s then education minister Ghulam Nabi Lone.

India finally cracks the whip, on Hurriyat Leaders. Image Source:

China-Paksitan Miliitary Ties

There are strong military ties between China and Pakistan. This alliance between two neighbouring East-South Asian nations is significant geopolitically. The strong military ties primarily aim to counter regional Indian and American influence, and was also to repel Soviet influence in the area. In recent years this relationship has strengthened through ongoing military projects and agreements between Pakistan and China. Since 1962, China has been a steady source of military equipment to the Pakistani Army, helping establish ammunition factories, providing technological assistance and modernising existing facilities. They exercise regularly. Both support each other in international forums. Pakistan is using china as a security insurance against India. Pakistan has already ceded nearly 5,000 sq. km of territory in Kashmir to China, and now the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being built by China as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and long term lease of strategically important Gwadar port, all have security implications for India.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Image Source:

Pakistan Support for Khalistan movement

The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement seeking to create a homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state, called Khālistān The proposed state would consist of land that currently forms Punjab, India and Punjab, Pakistan. Ever since the separatist movement gathered force in the 1980s, the territorial ambitions of Khalistan have at times included Chandigarh, sections of the Indian Punjab, including whole North India and some parts of western states of India. Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, according to Jagjit Singh Chohan, had proposed all out help to create Khalistan during his talks with Chohan following the conclusion of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. With financial and political support of some Sikh diaspora, mostly based in Canada, the movement flourished in the Indian state of Punjab, continuing through the 1970s and 1980s, and reaching its zenith in the late 1980s. In the 1990s the insurgency petered out, and the movement failed to reach its objective due to multiple reasons. In early 2018, some militant groups were arrested by police in Punjab, India. Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh claimed that the recent extremism is backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and “Khalistani sympathisers” in Canada, Italy, and the UK.

Should Paksitan be Supporting Khalistan, as bulk of Khalistan will be carved out of Pakistan. Image Source:

Pakistan has long aspired to dismember India through its Bleed India strategy. Even before the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then a member of the military regime of General Yahya Khan, stated, “Once the back of Indian forces is broken in the east, Pakistan should occupy the whole of Eastern India and make it a permanent part of East Pakistan…. Kashmir should be taken at any price, even the Sikh Punjab and turned into Khalistan.” General Zia-ul Haq, who succeeded Bhutto as the Head of State, attempted to reverse the traditional antipathy between Sikhs and Muslims arising from the partition violence by restoring Sikh shrines in Pakistan and opening them for Sikh pilgrimage. The expatriate Sikhs from England and North America that visited these shrines were at the forefront of the calls for Khalistan. During the pilgrims’ stay in Pakistan, the Sikhs were exposed to Khalistani propaganda, which would not be openly possible in India. The ISI chief, General Abdul Rahman, opened a cell within ISI with the objective of supporting the “Sikhs…..freedom struggle against India”. Rahman’s colleagues in ISI took pride in the fact that “the Sikhs were able to set the whole province on fire. They knew who to kill, where to plant a bomb and which office to target.” General Hamid Gul argued that keeping Punjab destabilized was equivalent to the Pakistan Army having an extra division at no cost. Zia-ul Haq, on the other hand, consistently practised the art of plausible denial. The Khalistan movement was brought to a decline only after India fenced off a part of the Punjab border with Pakistan and the Benazir Bhutto government agreed to joint patrols of the border by Indian and Pakistani troops. In 2006, an American Court convicted Khalid Awan, a Muslim and Canadian of Pakistani descent, of “supporting terrorism” by providing money and financial services to the Khalistan Commando Force chief Paramjit Singh Panjwar in Pakistan. KCF members had carried out deadly attacks against Indian civilians causing thousands of deaths. Awan frequently travelled to Pakistan and was alleged by the U.S. officials with links to Sikh and Muslim extremists, as well as Pakistani intelligence. In 2008, India’s Intelligence Bureau indicated that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence organisation was trying to revive Sikh militancy. Should Paksitan be Supporting Khalistan, as bulk of Khalistan will be carved out of Pakistan, is the moot question.

Other Pakistan Terrorist Acts

Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 en route New Delhi from Kathmandu, Nepal was hijacked on 24 December 1999 approximately one hour after take-off. It was commandeered to Amritsar airport and then to Lahore in Pakistan. After refuelling the plane took off for Dubai and then finally landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Under intense media pressure, New Delhi complied with the hijackers’ demand and freed Maulana Masood Azhar from its captivity in return for the freedom of the Indian passengers on the flight. The decision, however, cost New Delhi dearly. Maulana, who is believed to be hiding in Karachi, later became the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, an organization which has carried out several terrorist acts against Indian security forces in Kashmir.

Freed by India after 1999 IC-814 hijacking episode, Masood Azhar now a ‘global terrorist’. Image Source:

On 22 December 2000, a group of terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba stormed the Red Fort in New Delhi. The Fort houses an Indian military unit and a high-security interrogation cell used both by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Indian Army. The terrorists successfully breached the security cover around the Red Fort and opened fire at the Indian military personnel on duty killing two of them on spot.

Jaish-e-Mohammed raided the Swami Narayan temple complex in Ahmedabad. Image Source:

Two Kashmiri terrorists belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammed raided the Swami Narayan temple complex in Ahmedabad, Gujarat killing 30 people, including 18 women and five children. The attack was carried out on 25 September 2002, just few days after state elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir. Two car bombs exploded in south Mumbai on 25 August 2003; one near the Gateway of India and the other at the famous Zaveri Bazaar, killing at least 48 and injuring 150 people. Though no terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attacks, Mumbai Police and RAW suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba’s hand in the twin blasts. In an unsuccessful attempt, six terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba, stormed the Ayodhya Ram Janmbhomi complex on 5 July 2005. Before the terrorists could reach the main disputed site, they were shot down by Indian security forces.

Terrorist attack on the international Samjhauta Express train in 2007. Image Source:

On 18 February 2007 there was a terrorist attack on the international Samjhauta Express train that runs from New Delhi to Lahore, and is one of two trains to cross the India-Pakistan border. At least 68 people were killed, mostly Pakistani civilians but also some Indian security personnel and civilians. The 2008 Mumbai attacks by ten Pakistani terrorists killed over 173 and wounded 308. The sole surviving gunman Ajmal Kasab who was arrested during the attacks was found to be a Pakistani national. This fact was acknowledged by Pakistani authorities.

Talks and other confidence building measures

After the 1971 war, in July 1972, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met in the Indian hill station of Shimla, and signed the Shimla Agreement, by which India would return all Pakistani personnel (over 90,000) and captured territory in the west, and the two countries would “settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations.” Diplomatic and trade relations were also re-established in 1976.

Shimla Agreement signed in July 1972, by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Image Source:

In 1997, high-level Indo-Pakistan talks resumed after a three-year pause. The Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India met twice and the foreign secretaries conducted three rounds of talks. In June 1997, the foreign secretaries identified eight “outstanding issues” around which continuing talks would be focused. The conflict over the status of Kashmir, an issue since Independence, remains the major stumbling block in their dialogue. India maintains that the entire former princely state is an integral part of the Indian union, while Pakistan insists that UN resolutions calling for self-determination of the people of the state/province must be taken into account. It however refuses to abide by the previous part of the resolution, which calls for it to vacate all territories occupied. The talks broke down over the structure of how to deal with the issues of Kashmir, and peace and security. Pakistan advocated that the issues be treated by separate working groups. India responded that the two issues be taken up along with six others on a simultaneous basis. Attempts to restart dialogue between the two nations were given a major boost by the February 1999 meeting of both Prime Ministers in Lahore and their signing of three agreements. Kargil War, and the subsequent military coup in Pakistan that overturned the democratically elected Nawaz Sharif government in October of the same year proved a setback to relations. In 2001, a summit was called in Agra; Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf turned up to meet Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The talks fell through. On 20 June 2004, with a new government in place in India, both countries agreed to extend a nuclear testing ban and to set up a hotline between their foreign secretaries aimed at preventing misunderstandings that might lead to a nuclear war.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee meet ion Agra June 2004. Image Source:

Under intense international pressure in 2004, Islamabad was compelled to take actions against the militants’ training camps on its territory. India decided to fence the LoC. The two countries also agreed upon decreasing the number of troops present in the region. But nothing physically happened on the ground. Under pressure, Kashmiri militant organizations made an offer for talks and negotiations with New Delhi began but reached no end. India’s Border Security Force blamed the Pakistani military for providing cover-fire for the terrorists whenever they infiltrated into Indian Territory from Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan have launched several mutual confidence-building measures (CBMs) to ease tensions between the two. A new bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad was started. India–Pakistan border trade increased for a short while.

Bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. Image Source:

On 10 February 2011, India agreed to resume talks with Pakistan which were suspended after 26/11 Mumbai Attacks. India had put on hold all the diplomatic relations saying it will only continue if Pakistan will act against the accused of Mumbai attacks. On 13 April 2012 following a thaw in relations whereby India gained MFN status in the country, India announced the removal of restrictions on FDI investment from Pakistan to India. India and Pakistan supported each other during Bhuj earthquake of 2001 and earthquake in PoK in 2005.

26/11 Mumbai Attacks. Image Source:

Fugitives in Pakistan

India has accused that some of the most wanted Indian fugitives, such as Dawood Ibrahim, of being sheltered in Pakistan. On 11 May 2011, India released a list of 50 “Most Wanted Fugitives” hiding in Pakistan. This was to tactically pressure Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad. After quoting two errors in the list, the Pakistani interior ministry rejected the list of 50 Most Wanted men forwarded by India, saying it should first probe if those named in the list were even living in the country. Nothing moved forward on this count.

Dawood Ibrahim in Karachi. Image Source:

Cultural and Linguistic links

India and Pakistan, particularly Northern India and Eastern Pakistan, to some degree have similar cultures, cuisines and languages due to common Indo-Aryan heritage. Pakistani singers, musicians, comedians and entertainers have enjoyed widespread popularity in India, with many achieving overnight fame in the Indian film industry Bollywood. Likewise, Indian music and film are very popular in Pakistan. The Punjabi people are today the largest ethnic group in Pakistan and also an important ethnic group of northern India. The founder of Sikhism was born in the modern-day Pakistani Punjab province, in the city of Nankana Sahib. Each year, millions of Indian Sikh pilgrims cross over to visit holy Sikh sites in Nankana Sahib. More recently, a corridor was opened for sikh pilgrims to visit Kartarpur sahib Gurduwara.

Nankana Sahib Gurudwara. Image Source:

The Sindhi people are the native ethnic group of the Pakistani province of Sindh. Many Hindu Sindhis migrated to India in 1947, making the country home to a sizeable Sindhi community. In addition, the millions of Muslims who migrated from India to the newly created Pakistan during independence came to be known as the Muhajir people; they are settled predominantly in Karachi and still maintain family links in India. Hindustani is the preferred language of North India and Pakistan, which is a mix of Hindi and Urdu, the official languages of the two countries. Hindustani is also widely understood in Sri Lankan, Nepal and Bangladesh, and is the language of Bollywood, which is enjoyed throughout much of the subcontinent.

Beating the Retreat Ceremony at Wagah Border. Image Source:

Geographic links

The Indo-Pakistani international boundary demarcates the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat and the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh. The Wagah border is the only road crossing between India and Pakistan, connecting Lahore with Amritsar. Each evening, the Wagah border has a ceremony in which the flags are lowered and guards on both sides make a pompous military display and exchange handshakes.

1978, Lal Krishna Advani and Zia-ul-Haq Watching Cricket Match in Karachi. Image Source: Twitter: @IndiaHistorypic

Sporting Links

Cricket and hockey matches between the two have often been political in nature. General Zia-ul Haq travelled to India for a bout of “cricket diplomacy”. Pervez Musharraf also tried to do the same more than a decade later but to no avail. In tennis, Rohan Bopanna of India and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan have formed a successful duo and have been dubbed as the “Indo-Pak Express.” Sports links between the two countries were severed after continued Pakistan supported militant attacks such as in Uri. Currently they do not play against each other, even in a foreign land. Pakistani players can no longer participate in India’s Cricket premier league.

Little India in UK. Image Source:

Diaspora Relations

There is a large Indian and Pakistani diaspora in many different countries. In Britain they are the largest ethnic minorities. It is quite common for a “Little India” and a “Little Pakistan” to co-exist in South Asian ethnic enclaves in overseas countries. There are various cities such as Birmingham, Blackburn and Manchester where British Indians and British Pakistanis live alongside each other, generally in peace and harmony. In the United States, Indians and Pakistanis are classified under the South Asian American category and share many cultural traits. But they do react to happenings back hope to support country of their origin.

Flash Point India-Pakistan. Image Source:

To Summarise

With continued violence in Kashmir and a heightened threat of terrorist activity by Pakistan-based militant groups, tensions and concerns over a serious military confrontation between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan remain high. Pakistan has a single agenda of wanting to wrest Kashmir from India. India will not let it go. Pakistan is using terrorism as a low cost foreign policy instrument to weaken and punish more powerful India. Pakistan is an epicentre of terrorism and religious extremism and therefore of concern to India and the world.

Pakistan is in a financial mess. They are on the watch list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Self promoted terror is hitting them also hard. The Pakistan Army continues to be in control and is ammassing wealth in safe havens abroad. ISI-Jihadi combine remains a deadly cocktail. Regional stability is important for preventing nuclear weapons proliferation, and minimizing the potential of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Till terrorism stops, nothing is going to change and India and Pakistan will remain a flash point for future conflict.

Header Image Source:

Published by Anil Chopra

I am the founder of Air Power Asia and a retired Air Marshal from the Indian Air Force.

2 thoughts on “India’s Neighbourhood – Pakistan The Fountainhead of World Terrorism

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