You may analogize Pakistan-India relations with a roller coaster ride, only if the roller coaster you are referring to is a broken train, on an eroded and unusually bumpy track.
These nuclear armed countries with a volatile history of conflicts have a knack for keeping the world at its toes. Ever since the nuclear face off began in 1998, it seems not a matter of if but when the world would sit in audience to the first nuclear war. Many defense analysts from around the world consider nuclear armament of both sides to be a conflict avoiding factor, but India may have found a rebuttal to this theory in Mr. Narendra Modi. An Indo-Pak war not only seems possible, but imminent, if Mr. Modi is allowed to have his way. Modi may be seen as a statesman in some Indian circles, but as far as India-Pakistan relations are concerned, he may be nothing more than a diplomatic failure.
Having already ordered the arrangements for a carnival to celebrate the 1965 war with Pakistan, Modi now speaks against Pakistan while on tour in Bangladesh. Mr. Modi alleged Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism and also seemed to ‘reminisce’ about the 1971 war, during his speech at Bangabandhu International Convention. While in Bangladesh, Modi is said to have accepted India’s role in the conspiracy to divide East and West Pakistan, as it was, according to him, the wish of every Indian. He boasted about Indian military’s involvement in the 1971 war and India’s success in carving out Bangladesh. Yet he and his government alleges Pakistan of doing kind of the same thing in Kashmir.
The to and fro allegations between the two countries has gotten us nowhere. India blaming Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan blaming India’s Research and Analyses Wing (RAW) for anti state activities within each other’s territories is a ‘my word against yours’ conundrum with no possible productivity. The honest fact of the matter is that each may have contributed to the distrust that prevails today. What India did in East Pakistan, Pakistan may have tried to reciprocate in Kashmir and what Pakistan is alleged to be doing in Kashmir may be being reciprocated in Balochistan by India.
The prime bone of contention between the two countries is one of the most beautiful, and simultaneously unfortunate, land called Kashmir. A conflict born parallel to the birth of Pakistan, it has been the cause of three Indo-Pak wars and countless skirmishes. Each conflict ending in a truce that in turn ended in another conflict.
The Tashkent Agreement, which ended the conflict borne out of 1965 war, was ripped to shreds by the 1971 war, which then ended in the Simla Agreement. 1999’s Lahore Declaration was swallowed, soon after its signing, by the Kargil conflict. Bilateral relations and talks have seen many ups and downs, and have always revolved around the Kashmir issue.
The start of the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP) in 2004, re-lit the flame of hope for peace and cordial relations between India and Pakistan. Borders saw withdrawal of troops, contemplations and discussions on a joint anti terrorism mechanism began and several other prospective congenial avenues were opened. Progressing at a snail’s pace, but progressing nevertheless, CDP was halted in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks which resulted in deaths of 160 innocent Indian civilians who joined a long list of victims of terrorism – a list which contains thousands of innocent Pakistani civilians. India, as usual, promptly jumped to blame Pakistan for the attacks, and despite Pakistan’s admission that the attacks may have been partly planned on Pakistani soil but not by Pakistan, India stood firmly by its allegations effectively extinguishing any and all flames of hope and reigniting hostilities at the borders. In 2013, Pakistan’s Prime Minister and his Indian counterpart met in New York and yet again decided to end hostilities.
In 2014, India held its general elections and along came Modi. Like several political entities and leaders on both sides of the border, Modi also gained a lot by his “hard stance” against the “arch rival”. But Modi’s venom against Pakistan was not packed and shelved after the elections. In the first year of Modi’s premiership, Modi was quoted as saying:
“This is not the time for talks (boli)…but for bullets (goli)..”
His defence minister made the following statement:
“our conventional strength is more than theirs (referring to Pakistan) and therefore if they persist with this, the cost to them would be unaffordable”
And the following admission was attributed, by David J. Karl, to a senior government official in reference to skirmishes at the border:
“Prime Minister’s office has instructed us to ensure that Pakistan suffers deep and heavy losses”.
Statements and hostile gestures kept coming in, and the hope for peace in the region died a little with every one of them. Modi managed to ignore the very friendly gesture by Pakistan when its Prime Minister accepted Modi’s invitation to attend his swearing in. Mr. Nawaz Sharif even went out of the way and agreed to Modi’s advice to not meet Hurriyat members while in India. This diplomatic gesture was misconstrued as a sign of weakness and the Indian government got carried away asking the Pakistani High Commissioner (PHC) to stop meeting Hurriyat members or face seizure of foreign secretary level bilateral talks. In his genius, Modi overplayed his hand, PHC did not adhere to this unnecessary and unwarranted demand and thus bilateral talks were halted, yet again, not because of a war or a conflict – for a change – but owing to a diplomatic blunder: Modi’s first of many.
Mr. Modi’s hard stance against Pakistan and Muslims may incite enough sentiments and bag enough votes, but will not, can not, bring a desperately needed and long anticipated end to India-Pakistan enmity. Political parties may stand to gain from these hostile attitudes, institutions may benefit from anti state covert activities, but the Indian and Pakistani people, whom they swear to serve and protect, get nothing but detriment in this stretched-spring rivalry.