The long shadow of Pakistan’s military-centred national security approach

The case of the Kashmir dispute 1989-2001

The Kashmir conflict has been one of the longest unresolved military conflicts in the contemporary world. In January 1949, the first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir conflict ended with a UN-mandated ceasefire under chapter 6 of the UN security council resolution. The resolution recommended the restoration of law and order in Jammu and Kashmir and conducting a free and impartial plebiscite under UN supervision (Appendix 12). Since then, Pakistan continued to emphasize that the Kashmir conflict could be resolved under the supervision of UN administrators. However, a plebiscite over Kashmir never materialized despite many UN security council resolutions (Shankar 2016). As a result, it is generally believed in Pakistan that the Kashmir conflict could not be resolved through diplomatic means due to a lack of actions on the UN resolutions over Kashmir. This narrative served the military institutional interests and provided justification to use proxy militant groups and conduct direct military operations to seize Kashmir from India.

The emergence of the peace process in the 1980s

In the international system, states use both peaceful means and violent acts to resolve their outstanding conflicts. They adopt such strategies to safeguard their national interests, such as political and military concerns, as well as economic interests in the prevailing security environment (Adnan and Fatima 2016). Since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has fought three major wars and one limited war with India to resolve their outstanding issues, but has failed to find any military solution, especially to the Kashmir conflict. Pakistan lost two-thirds of Kashmir to India in the first war between the two countries. In the 1971 war, Pakistan lost to India its eastern part, which became Bangladesh. The Kashmir dispute was the major issue between the two countries and remained at the top of the agenda in bilateral relations until the 1971 war. Afterwards, the Pakistani military realized that they could not defeat the strong Indian military power in order to take control of Kashmir (Kapur 2005). In July 1972, a conference was held in Shimla where both countries pledged to resolve their outstanding issues including Kashmir peacefully. They principally agreed on the following points (Appendix 6):

  • • A mutual commitment to the peaceful resolution of all issues thr ough direct bilateral approaches.
  • • To build the foundations of a cooperative relationship with special focus on people-to-people contacts.
  • • To uphold the inviolability of the “Line of Control” in Jammu and Kashmir, which is the most important confidence-building measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan and the key to a durable peace.

Since then, Pakistan has avoided direct confrontation with India and instead has adopted various other foreign policy initiatives to counter Indian dominance in South Asia. India also showed maximum restraint policy until Pulwama terrorattack in February 2019.

In the 1980s, India and Pakistan began talks on various issues, including talks conducted at Siachen, Sir Creek, and the Tulbul-Wullar. In this peace process, there was no compulsion on either side to continue the peace process (Misra 2007). So there was limited progress in the peace talks, especially over the issue of Kashmir during the 1980s. Nonetheless, both sides were optimistic in 1988-1989 that the fresh political leadership of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and Rajiv Gandhi in India would be able to find a peaceful political solution to the outstanding issues and would begin a new era of Pakistan-India relations. More specifically, both sides showed political will, which was seen as a crucial factorin the resolution of the issues. Unlike the leadership of General Zia, India trusted the civilian leadership under Bhutto and believed that they could move forward and resolve the issues that had been outstanding since Independence in 1947. However, this India-Pakistan rapprochement was part of General Zia’s “cricket diplomacy,” which he started during his tenure. Moreover, the peace talks were taken due to international pressure, especially from the US in the context of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan (Ejaz Hussain, interview by author, Islamabad, 14 November 2017).

Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi visited Islamabad to attend the fourth SAARC summit in December 1988. It was the first official visit of an Indian prime minister to Pakistan in 28 years (Burki 1999). The primary objective was to progress and change the stagnating relationship between the two countries. According to an Indian official commenting on Gandhi’s visit, “I think you will find that we will move things forward in these two days more than we have in the past eleven years of General Zia” (Los Angeles Tinies, 31 December 1988). Therefore, there were high hopes and optimism that the peace talks would be the dawn of a new era for the relationship between the two countries. After the SAARC summit, Gandhi had a detailed meeting with Bhutto and discussed various issues of bilateral interest. At the meeting, they approved three agreements: non-attack on nuclear facilities on both sides, cultural cooperation, and avoidance of double taxation. India agreed to withdraw its opposition to Pakistan’s readmission in the Commonwealth which it had left in protest in 1972 after the Commonwealth’s recognition of Bangladesh as an independent state. Pakistan rejoined the Commonwealth in September 1989 (Rizvi 1993). According to

Military-centred approach in Kashmir 93 media reports (Aziz, Dawn, Pakistan, 16 August 2016), “Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Pakistan in 1988 was heralded by Benazir Bhutto as a historic departure from over 40 years of hostility.” On the other hand, Gandhi was convinced that the policies of Bhutto would be much better compared to those of General Zia’s 11 years of dictatorship (Jain 1988).

Rajiv Gandhi made a very successful visit to China in December 1989. During his visit, India and China agreed to improve and develop neighbourly relations and resolve their territorial disputes peacefully (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China site, retrieved: 24 June 2017). As a result, the India-China border tension eased after Gandhi's visit. Convinced that bilateral issues could be resolved peacefully, Gandhi made another visit to Pakistan within just six months. The primary objective was to take concrete steps to resolve the outstanding issues with Pakistan. At the meeting, Bhutto and Gandhi approved the accord on Siachen which had earlier been agreed at the defence secretary level meeting, in June 1989. Under the agreement, both countries would redeploy their forces, according to the provisions of the 1972 Shimla agreement. The joint statement issued after the meeting said (Aziz, Dawn, Pakistan, 21 August 2016):

There was agreement by both sides to work towards a comprehensive settlement, based on redeployment of forces to reduce the chances of conflict, avoidance of the use of force and determination of future positions on the ground so as to conform with the Shimla Agreement and to ensure durable peace in the Siachen area. The army authorities on both sides will determine the positions.

The settlement of the Siachen conflict was important for CBM between the two usually hostile countries. In return, it would have provided an opportunity to resolve, through peaceful means, other outstanding disputes, especially Kashmir (Ahmad 2006).

From 1989, several rounds of talks were held to settle the unresolved disputes, but with little success. In May 1989, both countries pledged to take significant steps for countering terrorism, smuggling and cross-border infiltration, and drug trafficking, at the home secretary level meetings (Rizvi 1993). These agreements were key steps towards improving bilateral relations between the two countries. The Indian premier described it as a “breakthrough” in the bilateral relations, while Bhutto thought it could create a “momentum for peace and friendship” between the two countries (Jain 1988). Thus, the civilian leaders were eager to find a peaceful solution to all outstanding disputes and commence a new era of relations based on mutual interest and the welfare of their people.

Nonetheless, both leaders publicly disagreed over the core issue of Kashmir and their nuclear programmes. India publicly complained about Pakistan’s involvement in the uprising in Punjab state and Indian-administered Kashmir (Rizvi 1993). Moreover, the Siachen agreement was not implemented due to differences over the redeployment of military forces by India and the ceasefire. In particular, India believed that the redeployment of troops to the positions they had held prior to 1972 could provide a strategic advantage to Pakistan. The Siachen area had been under Indian control since 1984. More specifically, the Indian military feared that China would take advantage of the redeployment in the Siachen area (Syed, Dawn, Pakistan, 14 April 2012). Despite disagreement over the core issues, the initiative to start the peace process did signal CBMs, with the intention to reverse the deteriorating relations between the two countries evident at the end of the Cold War.

However, the Kashmir crisis began at the end of 1989 when various groups started demonstrations demanding “right to self-determination” in Indian-administered Kashmir. The issue of Kashmir once again plagued relations between the two countries. India accused the Pakistani military of supporting the uprising in Kashmir, whereas Pakistan said that its support was only moral and diplomatic. Consequently, the Kashmir uprising interrupted the peace initiatives and the attempts to normalize the relations between the two countries.

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