India-Pakistan Relations

India-Pakistan Relations

This article deals with ‘India-Pakistan Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’, which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

Brief History

Common history

  • Pakistan was part of India before 1947. 
  • Pakistan was formed based on the flawed Two Nation Theory. 

J&K Conflict

  • Post-independence, one of the first issues faced by India and Pakistan was the accession of Kashmir. Pakistani Army, under the guise of Tribals, attacked Kashmir. But Maharaja of Kashmir signed ‘Instrument of Accession’ with India. As a result, Indian forces were airlifted to Kashmir, culminating in the creation of Pakistani Occupied Kashmir and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, J&K has remained the core issue between India & Pakistan. 

Indo-Pakistan Wars

In the subsequent period, India and Pakistan have fought three wars 

  • War of 1965: India lost to China in 1962, which encouraged Pakistan to take away Kashmir from India via force. But the 1965 war was a military stalemate, and USSR brokered peace between India and Pakistan via Tashkent Agreement. 
  • War of 1971: In December 1970, Pakistan held a general election in which Awami League based in East-Pakistan (led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman) won the election. The PPP and Awami League failed to reach a power-sharing agreement, and consequently, Awami League supporters in East Pakistan initiated a massive protest to seek autonomy. The Pakistani Army began to suppress the Bengalis in East Pakistan, due to which they began to leave their country and take refuge in India. India’s R&AW saw it as an opportunity to break East Pakistan away from West Pakistan’s control. The R&AW began to train and support the Mukti Bahini movement. Witnessing renewed unrest, the Pakistani Military launched a strike on India in North India. India perceived the attack as an attack on the sovereignty and decided to retaliate militarily. The Indian forces entered deep inside East Pakistan and captured around 90,000 Prisoners of War (POW). Bangladesh was finally born out of the conflict. The crushing defeat of 1971 came as a big blow to Pakistan. 
  • Kargil War of 1999: India fought a brief but bitter conflict with Pakistani-backed forces when they occupied the positions on the Indian side of Line of Control (LOC) in operation code-named as Koh-e-Paima. The plan was to control the heights and push mujahideens into the valley to create instability.

Cross border Terrorism

  • Most of the terrorist attacks in India have their origin in Pakistan.
  • India has been a victim of terrorism several times 
    • 2001: attack on Indian Parliament 
    • 2008: Mumbai attacks 
    • 2016: Pathankot Airbase Attack
    • 2016: Uri attack on Military base 
    • 2019: Pulwama Attack
  • These attacks have seriously impacted India’s relations with Pakistan. 

Present stalemate in talks

  • India has consistently repeated that Talks cannot resume until Pakistan actually cracks down on state-funded terrorist organizations in the last years. This boycott includes suspension of trade and refusal to attend meetings hosted by Pakistan (including SAARC meetings).  
  • Pakistan has also used various international and regional platforms to raise its voice over the Kashmir issue and the revocation of Article 370 by India in August 2019. 


1947 As part of its pullout from the Indian subcontinent, Britain divided it into secular (but mainly Hindu) India and Muslim Pakistan on August 15 and 14.
1947/48 The first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir was fought after armed tribesmen (Lashkars) from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (now called Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) invaded the disputed territory in October 1947.
1954 The state’s constituent assembly ratified the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India.
1963 Following the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan – Swaran Singh and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – held talks under the auspices of the British and America regarding the Kashmir dispute.
1964 Following the failure of the 1963 talks, Pakistan referred the Kashmir case to the UN Security Council.
1965 India and Pakistan fought their second war.
1966 On January 10, 1966, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Ayub Khan signed an agreement at Tashkent (now in Uzbekistan), agreeing to withdraw to pre-August lines.
1971 India and Pakistan went to war a third time over East Pakistan.
1972 Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed an agreement in  Shimla.
1974 The Kashmiri state government affirmed that the state “is a constituent unit of the Union of India”. However, Pakistan rejected the accord with the Indian government.
1988 The two countries signed an agreement that neither side would attack the other’s nuclear installations or facilities.
1989 Armed resistance in the Kashmir valley began.
1998 India detonated five nuclear devices at Pokhran. Pakistan responds by detonating six nuclear devices in the Chaghai Hills.
1999 Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met with Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. Kargil war was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan later in the same year.
2001 Tensions along the Line of Control remained high, with 38 people killed in an attack on the Kashmiri assembly in Srinagar.
2007 On February 18, the train service between India and Pakistan was bombed near Panipat. Sixty-Eight people were killed. (Samjhauta Express)
2008 Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai including Taj Hotel killing 166 people.
2012 In November, India executes Pakistani national Kasab, the lone survivor of a fighter squad that killed 166 people in a rampage through the financial capital Mumbai in 2008, hanging him just days before the fourth anniversary of the attack.
2016 In September, India launched “surgical strikes” on terrorist units in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, less than two weeks after an attack on an Indian army base left 19 soldiers dead.
2019 In the early hours of February 26, India conducts air attacks against what it calls Pakistan-based rebel group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)’s “biggest training camp”, killing “a very large number of terrorists”.
2020-21 Following the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K, Pakistan has been violating ceasefire violations.

Important Issues

Issue 1: Issues related to Indus Water Treaty,1960

Indus Water treaty

  • It was signed in 1960.
  • It was brokered by World Bank.

Treaty allocates the water in the following manner:-

Eastern Rivers

The water of the following rivers belongs to India exclusively:-
1. Sutlej
2. Ravi
3. Beas
Western Rivers

The water of the following rivers belongs to Pakistan.
1. Chenab
2. Jhelum
3. Indus
However, India can make limited use and build run of the river hydro Projects to generate hydroelectricity. Pakistan has the right to raise objections on the Indian projects if Pakistan is not satisfied with the design of Indian projects on these rivers. 
Indus Water treaty
  • Treaty also established a ‘Permanent Indus Commission (PIC)‘ with each country having one commissioner to share data and cooperate in all the matters related to the treaty. 
  • It is said to be the most successful water treaty globally as it has survived the India-Pakistan wars. 

Should India (unilaterally) review Indus Water Treaty?

Why in the news?

  • Pakistan is stopping India from doing projects like Kishanganga Hydro-Electricity Project (HEP) and taking India to the International Court of Arbitration on minor grounds.
  • Pakistan is sponsoring terrorist attacks in India. In such a situation, the Indian government believes that treaties signed under goodwill shouldn’t be obliged.

Yes, India should review the treaty

  • In 1960, India gave the most genuine deal to a lower riparian state, hoping that Pakistan would ensure peace. But Pakistan didn’t keep its end of the bargain.
  • Kashmir has been suffering because they cant utilize the waters of three rivers, i.e. Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Even Kashmir Assembly has passed a resolution to revoke the Indus Treaty twice.
  • Given the climate change and melting of the glaciers, a review of the treaty is the need of the hour. 

Other points to keep in mind

  • It can worsen India’s terror problems as Pakistan uses Indian control over water to recruit terrorists & justify the fight for Kashmir to control Indus.  
  • India is a lower riparian state in many rivers like Satluj, Brahmaputra etc. China can stop water & India will not have a moral high ground to oppose it.
  • Effect on India’s other lower riparian state: The abrogation of the Indus Water Treaty will send an alarming signal to friendly lower riparian countries such as Bangladesh, which receives around 90% water from rivers passing through India. 
  • Indus Water Treaty was signed under the guarantee of the World Bank. India still needs funds from World Bank.
  • It will help Pakistan to Internationalize the Kashmir Issue.
  • Legally, abrogating the treaty isn’t workable. There is no clause in the Indus Water Treaty regarding one party unilaterally denouncing the treaty. Treaty can be modified when both countries ratify the modifications. 
  • Brahma Chellaney (expert on International Water Affairs) believes that future wars in Asia could be driven by issues related to water. The Abrogation of the Indus Water Treaty has the potential to result in such conflict. 

Side Note: Indian Projects on Tributaries of Indus which were contested by Pakistan

Project River
Kishanganga Project Kishenganga Project was constructed by India on the Jhelum river.
It is a run-of-the-river project designed to divert the water of the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin. In 2010, Pakistan appealed to the International Court of Justice against the project.
In the final award of 2013, ICJ has allowed India to complete the construction of the Kishanganga dam with minor modifications.
Wullar Barrage / Tulbul Project 1985 India constructed barrage on Jhelum river near Wullar lake.
– Pakistan saw it as a violation of the Indus water treaty because of less water flow in the river Jhelum.  
Salal Dam The issue emerged in 1978 when India constructed Salal Dam 64 kilometres away from the Indo-Pak border on the Chenab River. Pakistan objected to the construction of the Salal Dam. 
In 1978, after negotiations, India decided to lower the height of the Salal Dam and assured Pakistan that the dam would be used only for the generation of power. 
Ratle Dam Chenab 
Pakal Dul Dam Chenab
Miyar Dam Chenab
Lower Kalnai Dam Chenab
Baglihar   Dam In 2005, Pakistan objected to India’s 450 Megawatt Baglihar Dam constructed on the Chenab River.
A neutral expert was appointed for arbitration. The verdict was announced in 2011 in favour of India. 

Issue 2: Kashmir Issue

  • Kashmir issue involves three contesting nationalisms, i.e. Indian, Pakistani & Kashmir.  
  • At the time of independence, a Princely State could either join India or Pakistan, as was announced in the provision by Lord Mountbatten. Kashmir posed some difficulty because it was a Muslim-majority state ruled by a Hindu monarch, Maharaja Hari Singh. Initially, Hari Singh was reluctant to join either India or Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan launched a campaign by sending its troops disguised as tribesmen to annexe the Kashmir state forcefully. He approached Delhi and signed Instrument of Accession acceding Kashmir to India, after which Indian forces landed in Kashmir to stop falling the whole Kashmir valley into the hands of invaders. 
  • Under the influence of Mountbatten, JL Nehru took the issue of J&K to the UN for dispute resolution. It was decided in the UN that two states would maintain the status quo, i.e. Pakistani infiltrators who came to Kashmir would withdraw & then a plebiscite would take place. India alleged that the stalemate over Kashmir could not end. A plebiscite could not happen as Pakistan did not withdraw its troops from the PoK, which was a necessary condition for restoring peace leading to a future plebiscite.
  • Later it became part of Cold war politics. This issue was regularly supported by the US because Pakistan was part of the capitalist block & India stalled all such moves with the help of the veto power of Russia. 
  • In the Shimla Agreement of 1972, it was decided that India & Pakistan would resolve this issue bilaterally & any third power wouldn’t be involved.        
  • The situation deteriorated at the end of the 1980s and the start of the 1990s. The reasons for this were as follows 
    1. In 1989, as Soviet rule ended, Pakistan’s ISI started developing confidence that a successfully trained Mujahedeen campaign could also be launched in Kashmir. Hence, they started a proxy war against India by weaponizing & training militants
    2. In the 1980s, various social and religious organizations that wanted to resolve the Kashmir issue peacefully formed the Muslim United Front (MUF). They participated in the 1987 elections but were badly defeated. The MUF alleged that the elections were rigged, after which the MUF candidate Mohammad Yusuf Shah was imprisoned. As the MUF cadres were suppressed, they began to cross over to Pakistan for support, where ISI started to train them with arms and ammunition. The JKLF militants attacked a Hindu Kashmiri Pandit, Tika Lal Taploo, in 1989 and asserted that Kashmiri Pandits should leave the valley immediately, resulting in the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.
  • From 1999 to 2002, the ISI used Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad in a ‘fidayeen phase‘ of the campaign. The idea was to attack army camps, zero down on targets, terrorize the Kashmiri population and cause a psychological blow to the Indian forces, Indian people and the Indian state.  
  • Kashmiri Intifada: Burhan Wani was the commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen of South Kashmir. On July 8, 2016, the Indian armed forces killed Wani in an encounter. His death led to an upsurge in the valley. Lakhs of people attended his funeral. The ISI, through social media, instigated the youth to resort to stone-pelting against the Indian forces. Stone pelting in 2016-17 has emerged as a cult in Kashmir.  
  • Repealing Article 370: On August 5, 2019, the President of India gave assent to the constitutional amendment, which abolished Article 370 of the Indian constitution. It led to a major upsurge in the state. 

Gilgit-Baltistan Issue

  • Gilgit Baltistan was part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been under Pakistan’s control since 1947, following the invasion of Kashmir by tribal militias and the Pakistan army.
  • In 1949, it was renamed as ‘Northern Areas of Pakistan’ and put under the direct control of the Pakistan federal government.
  • In 2020, it was made the fifth province of Pakistan. 
Gilgit-Baltistan Issue

India’s stand on Gilgit-Baltistan

  • India believes that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are “an integral part of India”.
  • Before this move, Pakistan’s federal institutions had maintained that Gilgit-Baltistan is an UN-disputed area. Its residents cannot be declared citizens of Pakistan until India and Pakistan resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Importance of Gilgit-Baltistan

  • Strategic Location: Gilgit Baltistan lies at the intersection of the Indian Subcontinent, Central Asia and China.
  • Large Territory: The territory of Gilgit Baltistan is more than five times larger than Pakistan occupied Kashmir. It consists of two ethno-geographically distinct regions: Baltistan, which was part of Ladakh, and Gilgit.
  • Water and Energy Security: Gilgit Baltistan is also significant due to its water and energy resources. Before entering Pakistan, the Indus River passes through it. Important glaciers like Siachen Glacier are located here. The hydroelectric potential of the Indus River makes it vital for energy security as well.
  • Chinese Interference: China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through Gilgit Baltistan, and China is building large-scale infrastructure in this area.

Issue 3: Terrorism

  • Almost all terror attacks in India originate from Pakistan. For example 
    • 2001: Parliament Attack 
    • 2008: Attack in Mumbai
    • 2016: Pathankot Airbase Attack  
    • 2016: Uri Attack
    • 2019: 44 CRPF men killed in an IED attack in Pulwama 
  • Terrorist groups which attack India are active in Pakistan & terrorists are trained on Pakistani soil. E.g., Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-ul-Mujahidin etc., operates from safe havens in Pakistan. 

Why Pakistan is using terrorism as tool ?

  • The realisation that Pakistan can’t defeat India in a conventional war. As a result, the Deep State in Pakistan has nurtured Islamic Radical Groups (Mujahideens) as strategic assets. 
  • After the success of Afghan Mujahideens against the USSR, the Pakistani Deep State started to use it as a strategy against India in Kashmir.  
  • It is part of ISI and Pakistan Army’s ‘Bleeding India by Thousand Cuts‘ approach.
  • Whenever the governments of two nations have tried to indulge in confidence-building measures (Bus Diplomacy, Sports, Summits, Kartarpur Corridor), the Pakistani deep state has used cross-border terror activities to derail such Indo-Pak dialogue.

What should be India’s response?

India is responding in a very responsible way and has always stressed on making this area terrorism free. India believes that all the nations in Asia must ensure that their lands are not used for terrorist activities.

  • Diplomatic Isolation of Pakistan: But Pakistan hasn’t responded to these urges. Hence, India should expose Pakistan on various International and regional platforms and isolate Pakistan on the international front.
  • Use Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to blacklist Pakistan (Pakistan is already in Greylist). 
  • Mossad Way: India should carry out covert operations inside Pakistan to kill high-value human targets.
  • Conducting Surgical Strikes on the training camps in Pakistan to neutralise the terrorists (as was conducted by the Indian army post-Uri attack). 
  • Pressurising China to stop giving unconditional support to Pakistan.
  • Support Balochis and other sub-entities in their fight for independence to bleed Pakistan as a counter-strategy. 
  • Economic Efforts: Indian government has already withdrawn the “Most Favoured Nation” or MFN status accorded to Pakistan to punish it for supporting terrorism in India. 
  • India should take a leading role in the process to adopt a universal definition of terrorism and steps needed to tackle it under the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).

Issue 4: Siachin Glacier

India-Pakistan Relationship

Importance of Siachen glacier

  • It is the largest source of fresh water in the Indian sub-continent.
  • Siachin is the source of the Nubra river that feeds the mighty Indus.
  • Siachen is near Karakoram pass, forming almost a triangle with India, China & Pakistani Occupied Kashmir.


  • Line of Control in J&K is as per the Shimla Agreement of 1972. But the boundary was specified only till NJ-9842, from where Siachen starts. Both countries claim Siachin belongs to it.
  • The matter was non-controversial till the 1980s. In 1984, the Indian R&AW realized that Pakistan Army had purchased specialized clothing for very low temperatures from a supplier in London. The R&AW alerted the Indian army, and during one of the operations, the military found a Pakistani expedition team in a place near Siachen. Before the Pakistani expedition could resort to any adventurism, the Indian army launched Operation Meghdoot, and Indian troops captured it. Now India controls the heights.

Should Siachen be demilitarised?

Yes, it should be demilitarised

  • India lost around a thousand army personnel due to weather-related casualties, and ₹7,500 crore was spent on military operations in the last 4 years
  • At Siachen glacier, temperatures dip to as low as – 45° C, making it the world’s highest & the most challenging battlefield.  
  • Due to global warming, glaciers are becoming very unstable. As a result frequency of Avalanches has increased. 
  • Demilitarization would increase trust and confidence between India and Pakistan.

No, it shouldn’t be demilitarised

Siachen is strategically important to India for a number of reasons such as 

  1. Saltoro Ridge at Siachen overlooks the entire region and provides an advantage of height.
  2. Control of the area prevents Pakistani and Chinese troops from linking up.
  3. Pakistan’s control over Siachin will make Leh and Kargil vulnerable as control over Siachin will give Pakistan the ability to oversee the Ladakh region and the crucial Leh-Srinagar highway.

Way Forward : India can demilitarise the Siachin Glacier provided that present situation is recorded and Pakistan assures to maintain status quo .

Issue 5: Sir Creek Issue

Sir Creek is a 96 km strip of water that is disputed between India & Pakistan. Originally named Ban Ganga, Sir Creek is named after a British representative. The Creek opens up in the Arabian Sea and roughly divides the Kutch region of Gujarat from the Sindh Province of Pakistan. The dispute lies in interpreting the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh.

Sir Creek Issue
  • The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime line between Pakistan & India.
  • Pakistan lays claim to the entire creek as per the Sind Government Resolution of 1914 signed between then Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch. 
  • India sticks to its position that the boundary lies mid-channel, as depicted in another map drawn in 1925. Further, India supports its stance by citing the Thalweg Doctrine in International law.   
  • The issue involves losing a vast amount of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) rich with gas and mineral deposits. 

Problems arising due to unresolved dispute

  • A maritime boundary isn’t properly demarcated, which creates confusion for fishermen. Their boats cross boundaries & they end up being arrested by the other side.
  • Creates security problems as well like 
    • Terrorists are frequently using this route to enter India.
    • Even 2008 Mumbai Attackers used this route.
  • Cartels (drugs & illegal weapons etc.) transact their business in the disputed waters so that they are beyond the reach of both Indian and Pakistani agencies.
  • It creates problems in exploiting resources as the region is rich in oil and gas below the sea bed.

Areas of Engagement

The focus should be on low hanging fruits for building amicable Indo-Pak relations

  • People to People contact by opening religious tourism to places like Kartarpur Sahib Nankana Sahib (birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev ji), Katas Raj Temple (Hindu temple in Pakistan), Ajmer Sharif (Sufi shrine in India) etc.
  • Trade and Commerce: India and Pakistan collectively constitute 90% of the region’s GDP, and peace between the two states could yield a 405% rise in trade at the bilateral level.
  • Electric grid: Pakistan is an electricity deficit while India has become surplus. 
  • Medical tourism
  • Energy pipeline: TAPI, IPI pipelines etc.
  • Social networking platforms have led people from the two states to establish a connection.
  • Bollywood and Pollywood: Hindi and Punjabi movies have a huge demand in Pakistan. 

It is advised that both countries shift their focus from geopolitics to geoeconomics to boost their economies and bring millions out of poverty. Both countries should remove their preconditions to start the talks. 

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