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 on the basis of the flawed Two Nation Theory.

J&K Conflict

  • Post-independence, one of the first issue 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 and 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 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 emboldened 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, Pakistani held a general election in which Awami League based in East-Pakistan (led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman) won election. The PPP and Awami League failed to reach at 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 the control of West Pakistan. 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 the Line of Control (LOC).

Cross border Terrorism

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

Present stalemate in talks

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


1947 Britain, as part of its pullout from the Indian subcontinent, divides it into secular (but mainly Hindu) India and Muslim Pakistan on August 15 and 14 respectively.
1947/48 The first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir is fought, after armed tribesmen (lashkars) from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (now called Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) invade the disputed territory in October 1947.
1954 The accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India is ratified by the state’s constituent assembly.
1963 Following the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan – Swaran Singh and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto – hold talks under the auspices of the British and Americans regarding the Kashmir dispute.
1964 Following the failure of the 1963 talks, Pakistan refers the Kashmir case to the UN Security Council.
1965 India and Pakistan fight their second war.
1966 On January 10, 1966, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Ayub Khan sign an agreement at Tashkent (now in Uzbekistan), agreeing to withdraw to pre-August lines and that economic and diplomatic relations would be restored.
1971 India and Pakistan go to war a third time, this time over East Pakistan.
1972 Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sign an agreement in the Indian town of Shimla.
1974 The Kashmiri state government affirms that the state “is a constituent unit of the Union of India”. Pakistan rejects the accord with the Indian government.
1988 The two countries sign an agreement that neither side will attack the other’s nuclear installations or facilities.
1989 Armed resistance in the Kashmir valley begins.
1992 A joint declaration prohibiting the use of chemical weapons is signed in New Delhi.
1998 India detonates five nuclear devices at Pokhran. Pakistan responds by detonating six nuclear devices of its own in the Chaghai Hills.
1999 Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee meets with Nawaz Sharif, his Pakistani counterpart, in Lahore. Kargil war was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan later in the same year.
2001 Tensions along the Line of Control remain 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 is bombed near Panipat, north of New Delhi. Sixty-Eight people are killed, and dozens injured. (Samjhauta Express)
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 India launches what it calls “surgical strikes” on terrorist units in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in September, less than two weeks after an attack on an Indian army base leaves 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”.

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:- Sutlej Ravi Beas
Western Rivers The water of the following rivers belongs to Pakistan. However, India can make limited use and build run of the river hydro Projects  (but can’t divert the water of these rivers). These rivers include:- Chenab Jhelum Indus
Indus Water treaty
  • It is said to be the most successful water treaty in the world as it has survived various India-Pakistan wars.

Should India (unilaterally) review Indus Water Treaty?

Why in news?

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

Yes, India should review the treaty

  • In 1960, India gave the most genuine deal to the lower riparian state with the hope that Pakistan will ensure peace. But Pakistan didn’t keep its end of the bargain.
  • Kashmir has been suffering because they cant utilise 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,  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 use  Indian control over water to recruit terrorists & justify fight for Kashmir to have control of the Indus. 
  • India is a lower riparian state in the case of many rivers like Satluj, Brahmaputra etc. China can stop water & India will not have a moral high ground to oppose it.
  • 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 regarding one party unilaterally denouncing the treaty. Treaty can be modified only when both the countries ratify the modifications.
  • Brahma Chellaney is of the opinion that future wars in Asia could be driven by issues related to water itself. The Abrogation of the Indus Water Treaty has the potential to result in such war.

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

Project River
Kishanganga Project Jhelum
Wullar Barrage / Tulbul Project 1985 India constructed a barrage on the Jhelum river near Wullar lake.
Pakistan saw it as a violation of the Indus water treaty because of less flow of water in river Jhelum.  
Salal Dam 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

  • This is the issue of 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 forcefully annex the state of Kashmir.
  • Hari Singh had his own fears. He never wanted to accede to Pakistan as he feared that a Muslim state of Pakistan would soon integrate the Muslims of Kashmir thereby relegating him to minority status. He also had similar concerns for India, as he thought that if he acceded to India, a socialist Nehru would strip him of the privileges he enjoyed. As Pakistani tribesmen reached Kashmir, Hari Singh panicked and began to make frantic requests to India for help. India, led by Nehru, decided to assist Hari Singh only if he acceded to India. Once Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession, thereby acceding Kashmir to India, Indian troops landed in Kashmir. The troops were able to stop the onslaught by Pakistani forces but by then, one-third of Kashmir had fallen into the hands of the invaders.
  • JL Nehru under the influence of Mountbatten 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 which came to Kashmir would withdraw & then plebiscite would take place. India alleged that the stalemate over Kashmir could not end and a plebiscite could not happen as Pakistan did not withdraw its troops from the PoK which was a necessary condition for restoration of 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 move with 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 about the fact that a successfully trained Mujahedeen campaign could also be launched in Kashmir.  Hence, they started a proxy war against India & weaponised & trained militants.
    2. In the 1980s, various social and religious organisations who wanted to resolve the Kashmir issue peacefully formed 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 Mohmmad Yusuf Shah was imprisoned. As the MUF cadres were suppressed, they began to cross over to Pakistan for support where ISI began 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 a mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.
  • In the period 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 commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen of South Kashmir. On 8th July 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.  The ISI, according to R&AW, had earmarked ₹1000 crores to be given to groups in Kashmir to create stone-pelting led unrest in 2016.
  • Repealing Article 370: On August 5, 2019, the President of India gave assent to the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019, issued under Article 370(1) of the Constitution of India. While exercising power under Article 370 (1), the President has repealed all the clauses of Article 370. By virtue of those modifications, all the provisions of the Constitution of India shall be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir
  • In the present situation, Pakistan has adopted a two-point strategy on Kashmir
    1. Firstly, it asserts that they are fighting for the rights of Kashmiri Muslims and insists that it hasn’t any control over non-state actors in Kashmir.
    2. Secondly,  all regimes in Pakistan have continued with the policy that Kashmir is the core central issue and  Pakistan would rest only when it succeeds in taking Kashmir from India.
Kashmir Issue

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.
  • 1949: It was renamed as ‘Northern Areas of Pakistan’ and put under the direct control of the Pakistan federal government.
  • 2020: It was made the fifth province of Pakistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan Issue

India’s stand on Gilgit-Baltistan

  • India said that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are “an integral part of India”.

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 ethnic-geographically distinct territories: 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 in GB. 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 IED attack in Pulwama
  • Terrorist groups which attack India are active in Pakistan & terrorists are trained on Pakistani soil. Eg : Jaish-e-Mohammad , Hizb-ul-Mujahidin etc.

Why Pakistan is using terrorism as a tool?

  • The realisation that Pakistan can’t defeat India in a conventional war. As a result,  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. Mujahideens in Afghanistan against USSR.
  • It is part of ISI and Pakistan Army’s approach of ‘Bleeding India by Thousand Cuts‘.
  • Using Nuclear Bluff since the world will not let two nuclear-powered nations to go on war.
  • 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 been able to use the 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 making this area terrorism free. It has stated that terrorism has not only affected India but all the nations. Governments of all the nations in Asia must ensure that their lands are not being used for terrorist activities.

  • But Pakistan hasn’t responded to these urges and hence India should expose Pakistan on various International and regional platforms and try to isolate Pakistan on the international front.
  • Use Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to blacklist Pakistan (Pakistan is already in Greylist). If Pakistan still continues to finance terrorists, Pakistan’s economy will suffer as no investment will come to Pakistan. 
  • Mossad Way: 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 given to Pakistan.
  • Give support to 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 has been pushing for the adoption of 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 (LOC) in J&K is as per Shimla Agreement of 1972 but boundary line 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 came to know that Pakistan had purchased specialized clothing for very low temperatures for its army from a supplier in London. The R&AW alerted the Indian army and during one of the operations, the army 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,  is the world’s highest & the toughest 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

  • Saltoro Ridge at  Siachen overlooks the entire region and provides an advantage of height.
  • Control of the area prevents  Pakistani and  Chinese troops from linking up.
  • Pakistan control over Siachin will make Leh and  Kargil vulnerable.

Way Forward: India can demilitarise the Siachin Glacier provided that the present situation is recorded and Pakistan assures to maintain the 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 the interpretation of 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 Sind Government Resolution of 1914 signed between the 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.
  • 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 problem 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.

Way forward for resolution

Designating the non-delineated area i.e. Sir Creek and its approaches-as a zone of disengagement or a jointly administered maritime park. 

Areas of Engagement

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, Katas Raj Temple, Ajmer Sharif
  • Trade and Commerce :  India and Pakistan collectively constitute 90% of the GDP of the region and peace between the two states could yield a 405% rise in trade at the bilateral level.
  • Electric grid : Pakistan is electricity deficit while India has become surplus .
  • Medical tourism
  • Energy pipeline : TAPI , IPI pipelines etc.
  • Social networking platforms have led to the people from the two states establishing a connect .

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