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The Jammu and Kashmir Dispute Has Been and Is Still at the Heart of Pakistan’s Relationship with India. How Have This Impacted Pakistan’s External Relations with India and Other Countries, as Well as Its Internal Developments?

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Iqbal Ahmed Khan

Pakistan’s Foreign Relations

Ali Hamza Navid

15020336

Sheharyar Manzoor Gill

16020182

2nd April 2015

Term Paper

Q. The Jammu and Kashmir dispute has been and is still at the heart of Pakistan’s relationship with India.  How have this impacted Pakistan’s external relations with India and other countries, as well as its internal developments?  Examine critically.  

Be it refugee crisis, water dispute, or the struggle to acquire Western allegiance; despite its common origins, a shared sense of past, and geographic and linguistic similarities, the relationship between India and Pakistan has remained hostile since the separation of the two states in 1947 for a wide array of reasons. Over the years, both states have expressed the dire need to maintain cordiality and have taken concurrent initiatives to establish long-term and effective bilateral relations, yet the peace process have essentially been obliterated by a number of factors. If the history of the relationship between India and Pakistan were to be traced, it could be deduced that the complexity of relations have largely been owed to historical and political events. After the termination of the British Raj in 1947, two new sovereign nations were formed which transformed the future course of South Asian region, and International Relations. Soon after their independence, India and Pakistan swore diplomatic relations. However, the ravages of the independence, unequal distribution of administrative and financial resources, and frequent territorial disputes undermined the possibility of forging harmonious relations. But most importantly, it was the Kashmir Issue which kept the relations between the two states volatile and led to three major wars and one undeclared war. Although, there have been several attempts made by both India and Pakistan to achieve some semblance of normalcy, the relations have remained unstable. Thereby, Kashmir Issue have been imperative in impacting Pakistan’s foreign policy and its relations with India and other nations of the world, and have also contributed in adversely affecting its internal development.

In order to understand the implications of Kashmir Issue on the bilateral relations of India and Pakistan, it is absolutely essential to determine and analyze the roots of this conflict. Perhaps, it was the accession plan of British Viceroy Louis Mountbatten who had sowed the seeds of Kashmir conflict. According to the main principles of accession of the princely states, it had been decided that the power to join with one of the newly independent states would depend upon the personal decision of the ruler, in addition to geographical homogeneity to one of the dominions, composition of the population, and the wishes of the people. However, this plan was internally flawed, as India became adamant on the acquisition of Junagadh and Hyderabad on the pretense of these being Hindu majority states, despite the fact that the ruler of Junagadh had voted to join Pakistan and Hyderabad had wanted to retain its independent status. If these instances had been used to decide the accession of Kashmir, then it would have most certainly been annexed with Pakistan. Although, research suggests that India adopted a different criterion on the Kashmir issue maneuvering with the territorial contiguity of the state and influencing the Maharajah to join India. Once India acquired the consent of the Maharajah, they disregarded the majority principle and the wishes of the people when making this decision (Cheema 2-3). This paved the way for a long withstanding conflict which still continues to exist and have severed socio-political and economic ties between India and Pakistan greatly. The complexity of the issue exacerbates from the overriding influence that the two states have exercised in Kashmir, remaining fixated on their respective approach on the issue. India justifies its right of occupation by asserting that despite its Muslim majority, the leader chose to join India. Thereby, the freedom struggle of the Kashmiris is believed to be instigated by Pakistanis, rather than a legitimate struggle for self-determination (Cheema 3). On the other hand, Kashmir Issue presents a conundrum for Pakistan for a number of reasons. According to Cheema, it is a “symbol of India’s highhandedness and broken pledges”. Whereas, all Pakistan truly wants is for Kashmiris to exercise their right of self-determination under a plebiscite supervised by United Nations with regard to the resolutions of August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949 (3-4). Hence, these events  served as a precursor for the Kashmir Issue.

Moreover, after having established the roots of the conflict it is mandatory to indentify as to why Kashmir is pivotal for the strategic interests of both India and Pakistan, and has been a perpetual cause for stressed relations between the two states. Similarly, it also has numerous regional implications for South Asia as well. To begin with, Kashmir is the main source of water for the irrigation of fertile plains of Punjab which is the fundamental reason for Pakistan’s resentment to Indian occupation of Kashmir. The Indus and its tributaries flowing through Kashmir constitute the primary source of fresh water in Pakistan. Secondly, the major land link between Pakistan and China known as the Silk Route passes through Kashmir. Since, China considers India to be its biggest regional rival; the Silk Route allows China to maintain its stronghold in the region and exhibits an aggressive outlook towards India. The Silk Route also serves as a significant trade route between China and Pakistan, due to which it is utterly important for Pakistan to protect it from falling within the trajectory of India. In addition, many other parts of Kashmir have immense geo-strategic preponderance for the South Asian region. For instance, Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Range serves as a barrier for linking the military forces of Pakistan and China. If Pakistan and China seized the opportunity of linking their forces in Siachen, the national security of India would be greatly undermined and it would have to face the joint military action by its biggest, two adversaries in the region. This is one of the main reasons why India wants to retain its stronghold in Kashmir (Lusignan 3-7). Further, with the onset of global terrorist activity and the presence of radical, insurgent groups in Kashmir, its strategic importance extends beyond South Asian region. As Lusignan points out, the takeover of Kashmir by Pakistan or the creation of an independent state would exacerbate the proliferation of Islamists groups all the way from Morocco to Malaysia. The susceptibility to terrorism has propelled the interest of Western nations in the area. According to some analysts, an independent Kashmir would become a playground for Western forces to have a military presence in, thus enabling to extend their sphere of influence beyond the Middle East, to Central Asia and the western border of China (5-6). In addition, for the international community Kashmir is considered to be a likely arena for a nuclear war.  As Akram highlights, “Given the danger that even an unintended or accidental action by the troops of either belligerent could trigger a conflict, the fear is that this military exchange could quickly escalate and cross the threshold to nuclear war. Hence, resort to war to settle the Kashmir dispute is no longer an option for either Pakistan or India” (Vol.2. No.4) Thereby, the Kashmir Issue presents a multi-dimensional conflict which requires urgent and systematic resolution.

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