On Thursday, March 18, 2021, a Pakistani army chief called for India and Pakistan, long-time enemies, to bury the past and begin an era of basic civility and even cooperation. The request follows an unexpected joint ceasefire that was announced by both countries’ militaries earlier this year. However, Pakistani general Qamar Javed Bajwa said that it was mainly India’s responsibility to create a “conducive” environment and to end regional conflicts between the two countries.
Bajwa said during his speech at a conference in Islamabad, one that was meant to highlight the new security policies implemented by the Pakistani government, “Our neighbor India will have to create a conducive environment, particularly in Indian-occupied Kashmir.”
Bajwa had acknowledged that India controlled Kashmir. However, this has been a massive source of conflict between the two countries. India and Pakistan both claimed that the northern region of Kashmir, the Himalayan region, belonged to them. Then, in 2019, Delhi stripped its part of Kashmir of the special status it had held under the Indian constitution. This greatly deteriorated relations between the two countries. This was just one instance of conflict, however. After the British Raj was done away with in the 1940s, two separate nations formed: the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. So many people were displaced due to religion. Both countries grew secular, with the Indian population being majority Hindu and minority Muslim, and the Pakistani population being majority Muslim and minority Hindu. Due to a high number of Muslim individuals in Pakistan, it became the Islamic Republic, with its constitution maintaining freedom of religion to those of all faiths. However, during the Bangladesh Liberation War, which effectively gave independence to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, most of Pakistan’s Hindu minority was lost due to migration and the separation of East Pakistan from the rest of the country. India had sided with East Pakistan or the Bangladeshis. Just before this point, both India and Pakistan had a diplomatic relationship. However, the separation of land and territorial claims, mainly Kashmir, have made relations negative.
Three wars have been fought since the two countries’ independence. The Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 resulted in the fall of Dhaka after an armed conflict between India’s Mitro Bahini forces and Pakistani forces. The Bangladesh Liberation war, which was discussed earlier, and resulted in the expulsion of East Pakistan (renamed Bangladesh), and the Kashmiri conflict, which has been ongoing. Summits have been attempted to repair the relationships. The Shimla summit followed the Bangladeshi Liberation war and was an agreement to resolve conflict and confrontation. It also laid down the principles that would govern future relations. The Agra summit had more general implications and aimed to reduce nuclear arsenals, and issues regarding the Kashmir dispute and cross-border terrorism. The treaty, however, was never signed due to a collapse in the process. The Lahore summit, one that possibly had the most weight to it, resulted in the Lahore Declaration. The Declaration’s terms saw a mutual understanding towards the development of atomic arsenals and the avoidance of accidental and unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. The Declaration also ensured that both nations’ leaderships would work towards preventing a nuclear race from occurring. The treaty was signed by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Both countries hosted an environment of mutual confidence.
The Lahore Summit was back in 1999, and there has been off and on conflict since then. However, recently, there have been declarations from both sides to make new efforts towards peace and cooperation. The call to “bury the hatchet” from Pakistan is a good step, but there has to be cooperation and work on both sides to finally achieve peace.
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