Chapter two - India and Pakistan: The new dominions
‘The past must be buried’
Mohammed Ali Jinnah,
This chapter provides a brief background to the
current issues surrounding nuclear testing in India and Pakistan. It gives an
account of the formation of the Indian and Pakistani states following
independence from Great Britain in 1947, the animosity between India and
Pakistan, and the border dispute in Kashmir that continues to plague relations
between the two countries. This chapter also places Indian–Pakistani rivalry in
a broader context, briefly outlining their relationships with other key
nations. Discussion of these relationships is developed further in later
chapters of the report.
India and Pakistan - Nationhood
The stroke of midnight on 14 August 1947
heralded the formal transfer of power by Britain to the two newly formed
dominions of India and Pakistan. The Indian Independence Act, which was passed
by the British Parliament on 18 July 1947, provided for the setting up of the
independent dominions of India (predominantly Hindu), and Pakistan
(predominantly Muslim) from 15 August 1947. Inter alia, the Act provided
- India would consist of all the territories under the sovereignty
of the King which were included in British India, except for those designated
as territories of Pakistan.
- Pakistan would consist of East Bengal, Western Punjab, Sind and
Baluchistan. If the North-West Frontier Province referendum showed a majority
for joining the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, that province too would form
part of Pakistan.
The division of British India into separate
countries was based on the ‘two nations’ theory, which held that the Hindus and
Muslims were two distinct nations and therefore should have their separate
homelands. Partition on the basis of religion was intended to avert the threat
of civil war between Hindus and Muslims on the subcontinent. With optimism for
the future, the Pakistani leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah expressed the hope that
India and Pakistan would co-exist in peace. In a farewell message before
leaving Delhi he stated, ‘The past must be buried. Let us start afresh as the
two independent sovereign States of Hindustan and Pakistan.’ Communal disturbances, however,
which had already erupted before partition, warned of deep discord in the new
In the months prior to the granting of
independence, clashes between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims resulted in the loss of
many hundreds of lives. Communal fighting continued into August with a rising
death toll. After partition, a mass migration of people - of Muslims from East
Punjab to Pakistan and of Hindus and Sikhs from West Punjab to India - took
place amidst rioting and much bloodshed. These disturbances took many months to
settle and in some regions residual tension continues to brew and, on occasion,
rises to the surface.
Despite the religious/ethnic basis for
partition, the societies of both nations have not been, and are not,
homogenous. A diversity of ethnicity, language, culture and religion has
created problems of governance in both countries over the years.
Indian society is particularly diverse. Since
Independence, India has prided itself on being a secular and democratic state
with the ability to accommodate many religious minorities. This diversity has, however,
contributed to internal instability, with a number of groups within India
seeking some form of autonomy.
Kashmir has long been an area where militant
groups have fought against Indian rule, and this conflict, which has been the
main source of tension and friction in relations between India and Pakistan, is
addressed in a later section of this chapter. Another area of conflict is
Punjab. Between 1987 and 1992, over 15,000 people were killed in separatist
violence in the Punjab.
Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh guard in 1984
and, although militancy has lessened in more recent times, tensions still
In other parts of India, smaller dissident
groups have sought some form of autonomy. In the north-east, there have been
clashes between Indian security forces and militants from a range of ethnic and
religious groups. In the south, Tamils have lent support to Tamil Tigers
fighting in nearby Sri Lanka and, at times, there has been talk of a separate
Tamil state on the mainland.
A large Muslim population (over 110 million
people in a total population of 950 million) has increasingly become a focus of
rising Hindu nationalism in India. Anti-Muslim riots have resulted in many
deaths, the most well-known incident being the attack on the mosque at Ayodhya
in 1992, following which about 1,200 people were killed. The rise in Hindu nationalism
has most recently been evidenced by the success of the nationalist Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) at elections in March 1998.
Pakistan was conceived as a separate state for
the Muslims of British India. It was created to accommodate people who wanted a
country of their own because they adhered to a faith different from that of the
majority of the population. Pakistan came into being as two distinct and
geographically unconnected territories or two wings, West Pakistan and East
Pakistan, separated by over two thousand miles of Indian territory. Although
Pakistan was established in the name of Islam, religion proved to be a shallow foundation
for sustaining its frontiers and for holding the two halves together. In 1971,
the eastern wing broke free from the Pakistani Union to form the independent
country of Bangladesh.
Pakistan is also a nation encompassing a diverse
society, and where tensions have often arisen as a result. Although founded as
a Muslim state (with 97 per cent of the current population being Muslim),
conflict between rival Islamic factions has been a cause of escalating violence
in recent years. In 1997, hundreds were killed in sectarian disturbances
involving the Shiah and Sunni communities.
Having ruled Pakistan for many years, the
remains a powerful institution within Pakistan’s political framework and,
according to many commentators, still exercises considerable influence over
recent and current civilian governments. Unlike India, where the military has
not intruded into politics, uninterrupted civilian government in the future is
not a foregone conclusion.
Conflict between India and Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute
The relationship between India and Pakistan
since their creation in 1947 has been one of bitter rivalry, marked by three
wars and a constant state of military preparedness. A continuing dispute over the
territory of Kashmir has been a major source of tension.
The conflict over Kashmir goes back to the
partition of British India, when the semi-autonomous ‘princely states’
integrated with either one of the newly created states of India or Pakistan. At
the time of the transfer of power from the British, the princely state of
Kashmir, with a large Muslim majority but ruled by the Hindu Maharaja Hari
Singh, delayed acceding to either India or Pakistan, leaving its future
undecided. Within weeks of India and Pakistan gaining independence, there were signs
of growing tension between them over the territories of Jammu and Kashmir.
From the middle of September 1947, India began
to receive reports of armed raiders moving into the western parts of Jammu
Province. The Indian Government believed that the invaders came mainly from the
tribal areas to the north-west of Pakistan and passed through Pakistani
territory to attack Kashmir. Furthermore, it argued that Pakistani nationals as
well as tribesmen were taking part in the raids.
By October, the invaders had made rapid progress
and threatened to overrun the Vale of Kashmir. The Maharaja appealed to India
for military help and requested that the Jammu and Kashmir State be allowed to
accede to the Indian Dominion. On 27 October 1947, New Delhi officially announced
that Kashmir had acceded to the Dominion of India and that India had accepted
Meanwhile, India intervened in Kashmir and by the end of 1947 had halted the
tribesmen’s advance toward Srinagar and forced them back to Uri, which is near the
Pakistani border. Fighting, nevertheless, continued.
In January 1948, the Indian Government informed
the United Nations Security Council that it had no other option but ‘to take
more effective military action in order to rid Jammu and Kashmir State of the
In bringing the matter before the United Nations, India declared that it would
abide by the verdict of the people in the territory. By the end of 1948, the
Indian forces had taken control of the greater part of Kashmir. The invading
tribesmen, nonetheless, held their ground in territory adjacent to the Pakistan
frontier in the West Punjab, and in north-west and north-east Kashmir.
The United Nations established a commission
which obtained from India and Pakistan an agreement to a ceasefire, a
withdrawal of troops, and a plebiscite under which the people of the disputed
territories would decide their future.
The ceasefire took place but the demilitarization did not take effect nor was
the plebiscite held. Kashmir has remained a disputed territory divided by a
ceasefire line ever since. For Pakistan, the fact that Muslims form the
majority of Kashmir’s population was strong justification for the territory to
have been transferred automatically to the Muslim state of Pakistan.
Over the years, sporadic skirmishes between
Indian and Pakistani forces across the ceasefire line in Kashmir forewarned of
serious conflict. By 1964, the number of clashes greatly increased. In May of
that year, members of the United Nations Security Council expressed the hope
that India and Pakistan would resume discussions in the near future with a view
to settling their disputes by negotiation, particularly over Jammu and Kashmir. That hope soon faded. A crisis
in Indo-Pakistan relations developed when large scale fighting between their
armed forces broke out on 5 August 1965. On 4 September, the Security Council
expressed concern at the deteriorating situation along the ceasefire line in
Kashmir and called upon India and Pakistan to have all their armed personnel
withdraw to their own side of the line.
Heavy fighting continued despite repeated
demands from the Security Council for a ceasefire to take effect. Although a ceasefire in
Kashmir finally came into force on 23 September, relations between India and
Pakistan remained tense and repeated clashes took place. Finally, on 10 February 1966
in Tashkent, the Prime Minister of India and the President of Pakistan agreed
to withdraw all their armed personnel to the position they held prior to August
1965 and to observe the ceasefire terms on the ceasefire line. They resolved to restore
normal and peaceful relations between their countries and to promote
understanding and friendly relations between their peoples. The leaders agreed
to move further ahead in establishing good relations by agreeing ‘to consider
measures toward the restoration of economic and trade relations, communications
as well as cultural exchanges between India and Pakistan, and to take measures
to implement the existing agreements between India and Pakistan.’
The promise of better relations that was the
basis of this agreement was short lived. Although East Pakistan had a larger
population than West Pakistan, the people from the east felt that they did not
receive a fair share of power or privilege. Growing tension between West
Pakistan and East Pakistan intensified following general elections in 1970.
Despite obtaining a majority of seats, the Awami League, which drew its support
almost entirely from East Pakistan and with no influence in West Pakistan, was
prevented from forming the central government.
An angry wave of political militancy built on years of mounting resentment
swept through East Pakistan. This widespread agitation and unrest was met by a
massive and brutal military crackdown. This military action finally led to a
full-scale civil war between East and West Pakistan in March 1971.
The disturbance escalated to such an extent that
Indian forces intervened. The theatre of war was no longer confined to East
as fighting between India and Pakistan broke out on India’s western border with
Pakistan and along the ceasefire line in Kashmir. On 6 December 1971, India
announced that it had recognised the provisional government of Bangladesh in
East Pakistan, which further damaged relations between India and Pakistan.
During this month, the United Nations Security Council demanded that
hostilities cease in all areas of conflict.
India secured a decisive military victory over
Pakistan. In East Pakistan, Pakistani forces surrendered on 16 December
followed soon after by a ceasefire on the western front. A final resolution to
the war was reached in the Simla Agreement signed by the Indian Prime Minister
and the Pakistani President in July 1972. Both leaders agreed that the basic
issues and causes of conflict, which had bedevilled the relations between the
two countries for the last 25 years, would be resolved by peaceful means. In
turning to the ongoing conflict in Kashmir they agreed that:
In Jammu and Kashmir, the line of control resulting from the
ceasefire of December 17, 1971, shall be respected by both sides without
prejudice to the recognised position of either side. Neither side shall seek to
alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal
interpretations. Both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat or the
use of force in violation of this line.
Despite this clear statement of intention and
notwithstanding the numerous attempts to improve relations, India and Pakistan
have yet to establish a relationship with some degree of normalcy.
Since 1984, India and Pakistan have been engaged
in military conflict over possession of the Siachen Glacier at the northern end
of the 500-mile-long Line of Control (LOC) that separates Indian-controlled and
Following a major uprising against Indian rule
by Kashmiri Muslims in 1989, tension between India and Pakistan has increased
Clashes along the LOC have been characterised by constant cross-border mortar,
sniper, and heavy artillery firing. This continuing conflict has resulted in
the loss of over 20,000 lives. It was estimated in 1996 that over 200,000
Indian troops were deployed in Kashmir.
A small United Nations peacekeeping force has been monitoring developments on
the cease-fire line/LOC since 1949, and currently comprises 45 military
Both India and Pakistan believe they have valid
claims to Kashmir. Pakistan questions India’s claim to Kashmir, and has
persistently pressed for implementation of the 1949 United Nations’ resolution
calling for a plebiscite of the Kashmiri people. India holds that Kashmir’s
accession to India in 1947 was legal, and that developments since then have
only confirmed that Kashmir remains part of the Indian Union. It is worth
noting that for many Kashmiris full independence from both India and Pakistan
is the desirable goal.
Resolution of the Kashmir dispute faces
significant obstacles. Both India and Pakistan have strong domestic political
motivations for maintaining their existing stances on Kashmir. For both,
control of Kashmir is a validation of their existence. Pakistani nationalists see
their nation, created as a Muslim - homeland, as incomplete without Muslim -
majority Kashmir. No Pakistani Government can afford to appear half - hearted
in assisting Kashmiri Muslims in their fight against Indian control. For India, giving up Kashmir
would challenge its secularist ideology and, perhaps more importantly, would
send encouraging messages to other separatist groups in the Indian Union. As Kashmir
is an area of strategic importance to India in maintaining the security of its
border with China, its loss would also be considered by India to be detrimental
to its security interests.
Although attempts have been made over the years
to find a solution to the dispute, little progress has been made. Agreements
were made between Indian and Kashmiri leaders in 1952 and 1975, but their
provisions are no longer relevant or acceptable to the stakeholders in 1998. While Pakistan seeks to
internationalise the issue and pursue a solution at a multilateral level, India
strongly resists external involvement in what it sees as an internal matter,
and will only consider a bilateral solution. The ‘international community’ has
come to accept India’s position on Kashmir, with the United Nations Security
Council removing the Kashmir issue from its agenda in 1996. Nevertheless, Kashmir’s
relationship to India and Pakistan remains a most divisive issue for the two
Control of the whole area of Kashmir, with a
population of around 8 million people, is now split between India (roughly 45
per cent), Pakistan (35 per cent) and China (20 per cent).
In the meantime, the consequences of ongoing
conflict between India and Pakistan are considerable. As already noted, there
has been substantial loss of life. Significant harm has been done to the
economies of the two countries, with both spending large sums on military
equipment. For India particularly, there has been the high cost of maintaining
large security forces in a constant state of combat readiness.
The hostility between India and Pakistan has
retarded trade between the two countries and hindered other commercial links.
Overland trading routes along their 1,500 kilometre border remain
underdeveloped, and the success of the regional trading organisation (South
Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – SAARC) has been limited.
These two countries with their acrimonious
history, punctuated by periods of armed conflict, are locked into a cycle of
arms competition, which has taken them down the nuclear weapons path. For over
half a century they have been living in an uneasy security environment of
mutual distrust and hostility. Apart from the three wars in past decades,
Pakistan and India have also edged toward the brink of war at least twice since
the mid 1980s - once in the winter of 1986–87 and again in the Spring of 1990 -
sparked by on-going conflict in Kashmir. Some analysts suggest that the fear of
nuclear weapons use held both countries back from provoking outright war.
In 1985, 1988 and again in 1990, Indian and
Pakistani leaders, in an attempt to improve their historically tense relations,
agreed (among other initiatives) not to attack each other’s nuclear facilities.
On the matter of nuclear power, one account in 1985 reported:
The leaders agreed to launch ‘technical talks’ to reassure each
other about the peaceful nature of their nuclear programs.
Subsequent talks at officials and ministerial
levels have failed to make real headway in easing the tension between the two
countries. Clearly the instability in South Asia has serious ramifications, not
only for the region but also for the world community.
Although India has established a nuclear weapons
program, it also has a strong record as a staunch advocate for nuclear
disarmament. During the 1950s, when nuclear weapons testing took place above
ground, India took the lead in seeking to have such activities banned. In 1954,
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru called for the prohibition and elimination of
nuclear weapons and, in the interim, for an agreement to halt experimentation
with nuclear weapons. The objective was ‘to snuff out nuclear weapons research
Eleven years later, India, along with a small group of non-aligned countries,
proposed the idea of an international non-proliferation agreement ‘under which
the nuclear weapons states would agree to give up their arsenals provided other
countries refrained from developing or acquiring such weapons’. Even though
India has championed the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, it
has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty on the grounds that they favour the five nuclear weapon states, ‘the
haves’, and discriminate against non-nuclear weapons states, ‘the have-nots’.
The Broader Picture: India and Pakistan and their friends and foes
Whilst the rivalry between India and Pakistan is
important in understanding the background to their development of nuclear
capabilities, it is no less important to recognise that the foreign policies of
both nations have been and are still very much influenced by broader
international complexities. India, as a large and populous nation, has sought
to play a significant role on the regional and international stage. At the same
time, Pakistan has sought to advance its interests by aligning itself with
larger powers, especially the United States and China.
India and China
India and China have had a long-standing dispute
over the demarcation of part of their border, which is still unresolved. In
1962, tension mounted between the two neighbours, with India accusing China of
incursions in Ladakh and the North-east Frontier Agency. The Chinese matched
these allegations with denials and counter charges that the Indians were
responsible for border violations and forays into Chinese territory. Heavy
fighting broke out in October 1962 and the Chinese, who outnumbered the
Indians, advanced to ‘within striking distance of the Assam plains...before
suddenly halting their offensive and announcing a ceasefire’. For India, this war brought
The proximity of China, a large and militarily
powerful nation, is a source of great concern for India. Several submissions
received by the Committee referred to India’s fear and apprehension of Chinese
aggression.  The 1962
war with China, followed by China’s first nuclear test in 1964, heightened
India’s security concerns. This anxiety is deepened by ongoing border disputes,
especially in the area of neighbouring Tibet, which has been occupied by
Chinese military forces since 1950. The presence in India of Tibet’s leader in
exile, the Dalai Lama, is an ongoing source of friction in the India–China
relationship. India has expressed concern at what it sees as ‘encirclement’ by
China, with not only the Chinese military deployments in Tibet to the north,
but also Chinese activities and alliances with neighbouring Pakistan to the
west and Burma to the east.
The India–China relationship was improving in
recent years, with the implementation of measures designed to avoid military
clashes along their border.
Agreements were signed in 1993 and 1996, which included an undertaking to
reduce troops and maintain peace along the line of control that divides Chinese
and Indian forces, in particular in the Aksai Chin region in north-eastern
Despite this progress, however, India has remained wary of China’s intentions.
Immediately prior to the nuclear tests, the Indian Defence Minister referred to
China as India’s main security threat, and some have interpreted India's
nuclear tests as a response to this threat.
India and the USSR
In the Cold War years, India developed good
relations with the Soviet Union. Soviet security concerns over China, which was
developing links with Pakistan, contributed to the Indo–Soviet Friendship
Treaty of 1969. India received increased military assistance from the USSR, and
Soviet aid to Pakistan was stopped. Since about 1990, with the end of the Cold
War and the demise of the Soviet Union, India has had to adjust to a changing
global situation, and has lost a reliable source of economic assistance and
military equipment. It has also lost an ally in its adversarial relationship
with China and Pakistan.
India and the United States
The end of the Cold War has also affected
relations between India and the United States. The United States, previously
suspicious of India’s links with the Soviet Union, has more recently been
encouraging the opening up of India’s formerly quasi-socialist and inward-looking
economy. At the same time, however, China has also been opening up its economy
to global markets, and an increasingly friendly relationship between China and
the US has been of concern to India. India itself has been looking towards
moving closer to the United States and seeking to achieve pre-eminence in the
region. India has sought recognition in the international community of its
position as a large and long-standing democracy.
Pakistan and the United States
In parallel with the developing Cold War relationship
between India and the Soviet Union, Pakistan developed friendly ties with the
United States, which was concerned about Soviet expansionism. A Mutual Defence
Agreement was signed in 1954, and Pakistan has received large grants from the
United States in military and economic aid over several years. The
relationship has, however, been an uneasy one, cooling at times (for example,
during the 1965 and 1971 wars with India), and warming at other times. The high
point of the relationship was during the 1979–89 Soviet occupation of
Afghanistan, when Pakistan was seen as a frontline state against Soviet
In recent times, the Pakistan-United States
relationship has been affected by the Soviet departure from Afghanistan, and
United States’ displeasure at Pakistan’s continued development of its nuclear
weapons program. Aid was suspended in 1990 under the Pressler Amendment (to the
Foreign Assistance Act), which requires, as a prerequisite for aid, an annual
certification by the United States President that Pakistan does not possess a
nuclear device. The President was unable to provide the necessary certification
that Pakistan did not have a nuclear device. Relations between the two
countries continued to deteriorate after the Pressler Amendment was enacted and
anti-American sentiment in Pakistan grew. A $650 million sale of F-16 aircraft
was blocked, and the issue remains a bone of contention between the two
countries. The aircraft remain parked in an Arizona
desert, and the US has returned only $150 million of the $650 million Pakistan
Pakistan and China
A friendly relationship between Pakistan and
China since the mid-1960s has been a significant factor determining
developments in the region. The Committee received several submissions pointing
to Indian disquiet at Chinese military aid to Pakistan, and in particular,
concerns over Chinese assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and ballistic
A complicated web of issues and factors
surrounds the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in May 1998. At the heart of
the issue is the intense rivalry between these two states and the on-going
dispute over Kashmir. Irrespective of the significance of this bilateral
relationship, it is only a part of a wider matrix of interrelationships
involving other states, including the United States, China and the former
Soviet Union. An understanding of the security situation in South Asia has to
take account of this wider matrix.
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