Indo-Pak Relations: Bus Diplomacy

12 Mar, 1999    ·   176

Maj. Gen. Ashok Krishna (Retd) analyses how the "bus-diplomacy" carried out in the subcontinent has paved way for discussion on substantial issues between India and Pakistan

The previous agreements between India and Pakistan- Tashkent and Shimla-did not lead to lasting peace betweeen the two countries. Thus, the Lahore , Declaration is the third attempt to finally break the ice. Unlike Tashkent and Shimla, which were signed in the aftermath of the 1965 and 1971 Wars, the Lahore Declaration is the result of peace time efforts to bring the two nations together. This time the pressures are different.



Except for a few fundamentalist elements on both sides, the populations in the two countries is keen to end 50 years of hostility. One of the issues in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s election manifesto was better ties with India . On the Indian side, successive Prime Ministers Deva Gowda, IK Gujral and now Vajpayee-have been keen on a substantive and realistic dialogue. Besides the Cold war is over; hence, there are no outside equalisers. The per capita income of India and Pakistan at $309 is lower than that of countries in Sub Saharan Africa-$550-therefore, the pressures of economic imperatives are considerable. Further, the younger generation, not overly haunted by the past, is keen on joint initiatives and ventures. The emergence of NGOs on both sides who looks to an improve atmosphere across their borders is also a positive sign. The SAARC community preceives Indo-Pak disharmony as retarding the hopes and aspirations of its people and the entire region. Furthermore, the acquistion of nuclear capability, with its inherent risks, has made a dialogue unavoidable. All these factors have contributed to a desire to break the impasse in Indo-Pak relations.






The two powers have agreed to alert the other immediately in case of any “accidental, unauthorised or unexplained incident” on the other side. They have also agreed to abide by their unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. This, they stressed, can be altered only when either country believes that its supreme national interest is jeopardised. The two governments agreed to give advanced warning to the other when conducting ballistic missile test fights.



There are, of course, some divergences which further talks should iron out: India emphasises no-first-use whilst Pakistan wants reduction in conventional capability. Pakistan sees little value in India ’s offer to extend the existing treaty not to attack each other nuclear facilities to cover population centres and economic targets. Pakistan wants a no-war pact, while India feels this is built into the Shimla Agreement and the UN Charter. Pakistan wants strategic restraint by India , while the latter wishes Pakistan to recognise the need for a minimum Indian deterrent against China .



The steps outlined in the Lahore Declaration and the Memorandum of understanding amount to an excellent beginning and will go a long way in reassuring the international community that the nuclear dimension has added to the sense of responsibility of the two countries and their leaders.



Trade, Commerce and Travel



Based on a shared vision of peace and stability we are likely to see a boost in Indo-Pak trade; relaxation; of visa; reciprocation by Pakistan of the grant of MFN status which India extended to her a decade ago; opening of a road route for trade; exchange of business information; as also increased cultural and sporting contacts. The South Asia Preferential Trade Agreement cold now become reality. An improved investor sentiment towards India and Pakistan is already evident with the warming of relations.






The National Conference of Sheikh Abdullah adopted an explicitly secular political orientation in 1938. During Nehru’s visit to Kashmir in 1940, Abdullah found that his own political sympathies accorded with Nehru’s. On the other hand, Jinnah sought to create a rift between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the state, consequently. Split permanently with Abdullah.



The tribal invasion of Kashmir was launched by Pakistan on 22 December 1947. On 1 November 1947 Mountbattan flew to Lahore to meet Jinnah to resolve the conflict in Kashmir . He presented the formula: “The Governments of India and Pakistan agree that where the ruler of a state does not belong to the community to which the majority of his subjects belong and where the State has not acceded to the Dominion whose majority community is the same as the State’s the question whether the state should finally accede to one or the other of the Dominions should in all cases be  decided by an impartial reference to the will of the people.” Jinnah replied that a plebiscite was ‘redundant and undesirable.’ He also refused to include Hyderabad in the reckoning.



Legally and morally J&K accession to India is beyond reproach. There are today more Muslims in India than in Pakistan .



The major impediment to any lasting peace process will be the Kashmir issue. Three previous wars have brought about very marginal changes to the original Cease Fire Line. The continuing proxy war of the ISI launched in 1988 has resulted in approximately 9000 militants being killed and 34000 being captured; 4000 have surrendered and some 20,000 weapons have been seized by the Indian side. About 9000 innocent Kashmiris civilians have been killed. Indian security forces have suffered over 1000 dead and about 3500 wounded. Pakistan spends about Rs. 80 to 100 crores per year on the proxy war and India has to spend a much larger amount to counter it. India used a division plus to create canditions conducive five elections in Kashmir in 1996; there was a voter turnout of 60 percent. Pakistan used about 250,000 troops to get a voter turnout of just 29 percent in Pak Occupied Kashmir. Wars have failed to influence the Kashmiri population, therefore, it would be monumental folly for Pakistan to continue the proxy war.



Both sides need to solve the Kashmir dispute without loss of face to either. In this context, the present Line of Control or the present Line with minor modification to follow clearly demarcated landmarks like river lines and crest lines, offers a fair solution, and perhaps the only one under the circumstances.



It has been seen that agreements when signed from positions of strength endure. What better time than now when both India and Pakistan have acquired their nuclear strength.



The other outstanding territorial issues-Siachen Sir Creek, and the Tulbul Navigation Project-can be solved with maturity and understanding, as was done in the case of the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960, which has stood the test of the time, and has never been violated by either signatory. It would be suicidal for India and Pakistan to carry their confrontation into the next century.