In February 2021, India and Pakistan agreed to strictly observe all previous agreements on a ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and other sectors and to address core issues and concerns.
It was their first joint statement in over eight years. But will the agreement be upheld this time? Both countries have come close to an all-out military conflict several times in the past two decades. DW takes a look at factors that are driving the hostility between the two South Asian neighbors.
In February 2021, India and Pakistan agreed to strictly observe all previous agreements on ceasefire along the Line of Control and other sectors, and to address core issues and concerns. It was their first joint statement in over eight years. But will the agreement be upheld this time?
Both countries have come close to an all-out military conflict several times in the past two decades. DW takes a look at factors that are driving the hostility between the two South Asian neighbors. India and Pakistan gained independence from British colonial rule in August 1947. Until
1971, Pakistan had two wings; the eastern part of the country then separated from West Pakistan and became Bangladesh. The territorial dispute over the Kashmir region became a flashpoint between the two new states soon after the partition of India.
Both countries now rule parts of this Himalayan region but claim it in its entirety. A war broke out between India and Pakistan in October 1947 after armed tribesmen from Pakistan’s northwestern region invaded Kashmir. Maharaja Hari Singh, then Kashmir ruler, sought India’s assistance to expel the tribesmen.
The war officially ended on January 1, 1949, with a large part of the region acceding to India and a smaller area controlled by Pakistan. The two countries clashed over Kashmir i succeeding decades as well.
In 1965, Pakistani forces initiated Operation Gibraltar to infiltrate the India-administered Kashmir. New Delhi retaliated by launching a full-scale military attack against Pakistan. The war ended in a stalemate.
In March 1971, the Pakistani military launched an operation in its eastern wing to crush Bengali separatism. Islamabad accused New Delhi of supporting the nationalist insurgency in the region. Millions of Bengalis fled to India for protection, which allowed New Delhi to intervene in the conflict.
The nine-month freedom struggle by Bengali rebels forced the Pakistani military to finally surrender on December 16, 1971. Bangladesh emerged on the world map as a new independent state. In the late 1980s, an armed separatist movement erupted in India-administered Kashmir.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of providing military and political backing to the insurgents. Indian forces dealt with the insurgency with an iron hand. International rights groups blame India for committing grave human rights violations in its war against separatism.
In 1999, Pakistan and India once again engaged in a military confrontation over Kashmir. The Kargil War came to an end after Pakistan’s then-prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, agreed to withdraw Pakistani troops from the region under the Washington Accord. Apart from its strategic value, Kashmir is also a major water source for both India and Pakistan.
India and Pakistan have also been at loggerheads over Afghanistan. After gaining independence from British rule, India maintained close ties with the regime in Afghanistan, which Pakistan considered a security risk.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, Islamabad got itself fully involved in the conflict and subsequently backed jihadi groups in the country to defeat communist forces.
Western countries, particularly the United States, supported Pakistan in this war. Since the start of the new millennium, Pakistan and India have avoided a direct military conflict with each other. Instead, the two countries have engaged in a proxy war, mostly in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Ties between India and Pakistan deteriorate again after militants attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001.
New Delhi blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group for the assault. Islamabad denied any involvement in the attack. In 2004, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to ensure ceasefire along the Line of Control (de facto border between the two sides). It was followed by the launch of a formal peace process in 2004. In November 2008, 10 militants carried out coordinated attacks across Mumbai, killing 163 people. India once again blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for the assault.
Tensions between the two countries began to
ease after Nawaz Sharif came to power in Pakistan for the third time. Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks in 2014. The following year, Modi made a surprise visit to the Pakistani city of Lahore to attend the wedding of Sharif’s granddaughter. In February 2019, a militant attack on a convoy of Indian army vehicles in Pulwama killed 40 soldiers.
New Delhi conducted retaliatory airstrikes inside Pakistan, claiming to hit a training camp run by the Jaish-e-Mohammad group. On August 5, 2019, India abrogated Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status – a move, according to Premier Modi, aimed at curbing the insurgent movement and terrorism. Pakistan condemned the move, calling it an attempt to annex the region. The conflict has also taken a toll on cultural and trade ties.
Even the coronavirus pandemic could not bring the two states closer together. Relations between India and Pakistan continue to be tense, with experts saying they are unlikely to improve anytime soon.
Territorial disputes over the Kashmir region sparked two of the three major Indo-Pakistani wars in 1947 and 1965, and a limited war in 1999. Although both countries have maintained a fragile ceasefire since 2003,
they regularly exchange fire across the contested border, known as the Line of Control. Both sides accuse the other of violating the cease-fire and claim to be shooting in response to attacks.
An uptick in border skirmishes that began in late 2016 and continued into 2018 killed dozens and displaced thousands of civilians on both sides of the Line of Control.