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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 22 New Delhi May 18, 2019

Thinking beyond War: An Analysis of India-Pakistan Relationship Post-Pulwama

Saturday 18 May 2019


by Debtanu Majee

India and Pakistan shared a malevolent relationship from the very inception of both the countries. Pakistan was the product of the divide and rule policy followed by the British between the Hindus and Muslims. The Hindu-dominated secular state of India was seen as a threat by the Muslims. They wanted an Islamic state of their own and thus was Pakistan born by fragmenting India. Pakistan’s too much dependence on their religious identity turned the clock in the reverse direction for them. Religion could not play the role of a positive force for them. Religion created Pakistan and it is also the force that engendered her downfall. National interest is the topmost priority in this anarchical international system but one cannot ignore cooperation completely in this era of interdependence and deterrence. The India-Pakistan tussle continued since 1947 as both the countries tried to safeguard their national interests. India’s security has been threatened very often by the terrorist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harkat-ul-Ansar operating from the soil of Pakistan. The complex nature of the problem between the two countries needs to be understood in order to examine the relationship between the two. India’s fight is against terrorism while Pakistan’s struggle is to capture Kashmir. Kashmir has been kept illegitimately by India, according to Pakistan. The tussle between the two nuclear powers of South Asia has hampered peace, development and stability of the region. The regional organisation, SAARC, cannot even produce the fruits of benefit due to this hostile relationship between the two countries.

New tensions between India and Pakistan emerged after the Indian Air Force’s reprisal against the terror attack on the Indian armed forces on February 14 in Pulwama, a place located in Kashmir. The attack was caused by Jaish-e-Mohammad which was responsible for the death of 40 military personnel of India. The entry of the Indian Air Force in Pakistan by crossing the Line of Control (LoC) was no doubt a violation of international law but from the Indian point of view it was necessary to eliminate the terrorists operating from the soil of Pakistan. This very retaliation of the Indian Air Force gave rise to a situation of war between the two countries. This article explains why war is not desirable in any situation among any of the countries of the world. War is not a solution; rather it is a hindrance to progress. We need to think beyond war and construct the relationship between the two countries in a positive direction. The next section of this article focuses on Kashmir as the centre of dispute between the two countries.

Kashmir—the Centre of Dispute

The successful divide and rule policy imple-mented by the British was responsible for disunity between the Hindus and Muslims. In addition, the lust for power between Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah made it easy to divide India and create a separate state for the Muslims. Poet Iqbal was the originator of this idea of a separate Muslim country which was implemented by Jinnah through his two-nation theory which was introduced in the Lahore session of the Muslim League in 1940. Pakistan was born a day before India’s independence.

The two countries went to war soon after their formation in 1947. The dispute centred on Kashmir. The autonomous region of Kashmir under Maharaja Hari Singh was invaded by a group of tribal people along with the support of the Pakistani military. The Indian Army rescued Kashmir from the hands of the Pakistanis after the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the instrument of accession to join the Indian Union. The United Nations also got involved in the matter and it was agreed that a referendum would decide Kashmir’s future. However, the referendum never took place till date. More wars escalated between India and Pakistan in 1965, 1971 and 1999. Fragmentation of Pakistan to create Bangladesh in 1971 and India’s constant support to Bangla-desh in her war of liberation made India a bigger enemy of Pakistan. India acquiring nuclear power in 1974 caused the greatest worry for Pakistan. Pakistan became so desperate to acquire nuclear power to compete with India that they were ready to do anything for that: even to eat grass. In 1998 they too became a nuclear power.

In order to grab Kashmir from India they started to sponsor terrorists to conduct terrorism in India. They started infiltrating arms and provided financial support to the insurgents in Kashmir. The recent Pulwama attack and the Uri attack in 2016 are indications that Kashmir is not secure. Locals are also brainwashed to generate anti-India sentiments. Kashmir has turned out to be the main problem between the two countries. Kashmir, being a strategic region, cannot be handed over to Pakistan. Granting autonomy to Kashmir will also generate security problems for India as an autonomous Kashmir will hardly be able to protect herself from the terrorists and Pakistan.

The best possible option available is to let Pakistan keep Azad Kashmir and allow India to keep her part of Kashmir. Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and its separate Constitution are discriminatory in nature. We need to correct the discrimination and treat Kashmir just like any other Indian State. We need to resolve the Kashmir issue efficiently.

Pakistan—the Honeymoon Destination for the Terrorists

Pakistan is no doubt a honeymoon destination for the terrorists. It has given shelter to Osama bin Laden in the past and now it is protecting Masood Azhar. Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Pakistan, is staying abroad due to lack of security in Pakistan. She fears that she will be killed by the terrorists if she returns to Pakistan. Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Ansar are all terrorist groups operating from the soil of Pakistan and creating terror throughout the world. Even Muslim-majority countries like Afghanistan and Iran are targeted. The Sri Lankan cricket team was also targeted by the terrorists in 2009 and this brought cricket to an end in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden was killed by the American forces in an encounter at Abbottabad in Pakistan.

After all these incidents Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, still insists that there is no information about the terrorists available to his intelligence. He is very confident about the capabilities of his Army to fight India but the question is: why cannot his capable Army wipe out terrorism from Pakistan? Imran wants India to play a mature role to avoid war but when will his country play the mature role against the terrorists? Pakistan needs to overcome her honeymoon destination tag for the terrorists soon to enhance security in South Asia as well as in Pakistan.

Thinking beyond War

War is never a desirable solution. Cooperation among countries in order to achieve peace must be focused upon. The devastating effects engendered by war in different parts of the world have increased human sufferings. The strikes of the Indian Air Force were applauded by many people in India. Many are of the view that we should go to war against Pakistan. However, being an academician studying Inter-national Relations, I am of the opinion that war cannot find the solution we are looking for. Emotional Indians want India to win against Pakistan whether it is a cricket match or a battle on the borders. Here one thing needs to be made clear—that our fight is not against Pakistan but against terrorism. A war between India and Pakistan will facilitate the terrorists more. Large scale financial and human loss would be detrimental for both the countries even if we go for a low-level war. A nuclear war will change the demography of South Asia as well as the world.

War is never a zero-sum game. The USA, China, Britain and France all have urged India and Pakistan to eliminate the present tension. Pakistan’s peace gesture by releasing the Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force, Abhi-nandan Varthaman, can take the relationship between the two countries in a positive direction. Indian foreign policy has always preferred peace over war. India’s intervention in Pakistan has always been a kind of retaliation. Some believe that in order to protect India’s national security Indian intervention has become a necessity. Pakistan being a failed state is a victim of terrorism itself. Economic insecurity in Pakistan is forcing the youth to join terrorist groups. Pakistan lacks political security as we have seen many a time with military coups dismissing democratic governments and assuming power. Personal and community insecurity also prevail in the country. Going for war against India will affect the ruined economy of Pakistan more than India’s growing economy. Economically and strategically we are superior to Pakistan. When it comes to military capabi-lities it is again India which has the upper hand. In spite of all these advantages war should be avoided in order to sustain peace, develop-ment and stability in the region. In short, we need to think beyond war. The countries have produced some affirmative agreements like the Indus Treaty of 1960, the Sallal Dam Agreement in 1978 and the 1991 agreement not to strike the nuclear installations possessed by the two countries. (Chatterjee: 2017, 14) In future we do not want war but cooperation between the two countries to resolve the disputes within a constructive framework.

Pakistan Needs to Resolve her Domestic Problems

Pakistan, in order to compete with India, perhaps ignored her main domestic problem, that is, terrorism, and it has turned out to be a rogue state. Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani scholar, is of the opinion that “Pakistan should deal with its domestic terrorist threat rather than try to treat the whole issue as India-oriented”. (Malone: 2019, 112) Pakistan honestly needs to address the issue of terrorism to overcome her image of honeymoon destination for the terrorists. Lack of symmetry in terms of economic, military and strategic powers have generated a feeling of bitterness towards India. India cultivated her resources smartly in order to enhance her power. Pakistan should do the same to improve her condition instead of facilitating terrorism and Islamic radicalism.

Role of the International Community

Active engagement of the international community is a must in order to create an atmosphere conducive to peace and development in South Asia and in particular between India and Pakistan. India’s intervention in Pakistan as a measure to tackle cross-border terrorism in future may increase if Pakistan cannot address the issue of terrorism which it has failed to do repeatedly either due to lack of political or military will or due to its incapability to combat the terrorists.

Next time India intervenes it should not do it alone; otherwise again a war-like situation may erupt; that is not desirable as war does not benefit anyone. In order to de-escalate and resist war India should intervene with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. China was an obstacle so far but the balance has started to shift. India, with her smart diplomatic skills, is bringing China to her side. It is true that China helped Pakistan to acquire nuclear power in order to arrest Indian influence in South Asia. However, when it comes to terrorism China too can become a victim of it. Thus China will definitely try to balance her position between India and Pakistan in regard to the fight against terrorism. We need a multilateral solution to this problem of terrorism as it is a global problem. If the situation demands, the international community will intervene in Pakistan to eliminate terrorism.

Removing Mutual Distrust


Military, educational, cultural and technological collaboration between the two countries can address the issue of India-Pakistan mistrust prevailing at present. Confidence-building measures between the countries is a way to decrease war-like situations. Although educational and cultural exchanges are not possible at the moment due to anti-Pakistani sentiment in India and anti-Indian sentiment in Pakistan, these need to be focused upon as long-time policy-goals. Increasing trade and investments are also necessary to resolve the problem of distrust.


The post-Pulwama relationship between the two nuclear power neighbours, India and Pakistan, led to a war-like situation due to the reprisal of the Indian Air Force. The call for peace by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has de-escalated war. However, if Pakistan does not take action against the terrorists operating from its soil that will force India to intervene again in order to safeguard her national security. India’s war on terror will continue in Pakistan in that case. The Indian attack in Balakot did not cause any harm to the population of Pakistan nor did it attack the military bases. The attack was carried out against a specific target. Peace, stability and development of South Asia as a region cannot be compromised for narrow self-interested goals of India and Pakistan. Intensification of war for petty political gains in terms of domestic politics of both the countries should be stopped. India and Pakistan need to reconstruct their relationship on the basis of peace, harmony and cooperation. Both the countries should give up their narrow sentiment of nationalism. Eliminating war and embracing peace will ensure human happiness.


1. Babu, G. Kishore (2018), ‘Trilateral not Bilateral Solution of the Pakistan and China Dispute’, World Focus, Vol. XXXIX, Number:12

2. Chatterjee, Aneek (2017), Neighbours, Major Powers and Indian Foreign Policy, Orient Blackswan Private Limited, Hyderabad.

3. Malone, M. David (2019), Does the Elephant Dance?: Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy, Oxford India, New Delhi.

4., accessed on 03.03.2019.

5., accessed on 03.03.2019.

6., accessed on 03.03.2019.

7., accessed on 03.03.19.

The author is a Ph.D Research Scholar in the Department of Political Science, Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol (West Bengal). He is a Guest Faculty, Department of Political Science, Bankura University, Bankura and K.D. College of Commerce and General Studies, Midnapore.

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