Trying to build geopolitical influence and power is not an easy task for most countries, especially when your country appears out of the decolonization process, and is trapped within a difficult geographical landscape and long historical feuds.
Pakistan seems to be defined by others with its opposition to India in the subcontinent. The Hindu-Pakistani conflict over the Kashmir region has persisted for nearly 80 years and no one seems to see the end. Both countries do not want the other around. They have fought 2 major wars over Kashmir ever since their independence and fought endlessly in minor events. The first Indi-Pakistani war from 1947-1948: ended up with Pakistan occupying 1/3 of the territory. The 1965 war more significant in terms of human and military loss resulted in the loss of about 720 square miles of territory for Pakistan.
The origin of the conflicts precedes the creation of India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s and India’s claim over Kashmir is irredentist and goes back to the nationalist movements. The Indian national congress was in favor of a secular and democratic country. They saw in Kashmir the possibilities to demonstrate that all faith could live under a secular country. Whereas the Pakistani nationalist movement believes in a religious-based state. Thus, the Muslim-majority in Kashmir state was a way to create an all Muslim state. Under British colonial rule the subcontinent was separated into two kinds of state: British India and princely states. With the end of the British rule and the independence, the princely states had two choices join India or Pakistan. The idea was that a predominantly Muslim state would join Pakistan. Except that despite the muslim majority, Kashmir had a Hindu monarch and shared border with both Pakistan and India.
So when the British decided on June 3rd 1947 to finally leave India and partition the country little did they know that this partition will leave the door open for an endless conflict dangerously increasing years after years of resentment and bitterness. The partition of India caused the moving of millions of Muslim, Hindu, and Sikhs thus provoking riots and conflict between the communities.
About 1 million people died during the migration from new modern India to Pakistan. Muslim-Indians finally, after years of fighting obtained the creation of their country Pakistan. But Pakistan obtained way less in the process. It inherited the troublesome North West frontier with Afghanistan and was split into two. Thus we have West Pakistan and East Pakistan situated in the East of Calcutta. The Pakistani situation is very tricky, out of the process was now put together five different regions with their own identities and language. Several nations living within one state. With the Punjabis that make up for 60% of the population; Pashtuns 13.5 % and Baluchis 4%.
Today, the Kashmir region although a question of national pride is also an incredible asset for both countries. For India Kashmir is a window to central Asia. And the Kashmir border with Afghanistan allow them to diminish the usefulness of a Chinese-Pakistani relationship, thus preventing Pakistan pressuring the US to keep them in their financial aid program as Pakistan would no longer use China as bait. For Pakistan, having the Kashmir region strengthen Islamabad foreign policy options and deny India opportunities. Kashmir provides water security for Pakistan as well. Indeed the Indus river from Himalayan passes through the Indian controlled part of Kashmir before entering Pakistan, this water sustain the cotton and many other industries in the country, without that, the country economy could collapse. That’s why neither side will let go. India accuses Pakistan to support the Muslim of the India-Kashmir region against the Indian rule. And Pakistan fears a conventional attack from the India army in their capital Islamabad situated in the Punjab region less than 250 miles from India with no geographical constraints. India never actually shows any sign of wanting to do so but the risk is enough for Pakistan. Kashmir seems to be destined to remain place a conflict between the two nations. This conflict could go bad very easily as both countries have access to nuclear weapons.
Those two countries are doom to co-exist together as they share a 1900 mile border. Nothing seems to be able to put an end to this conflict not the numerous attempts of UN or others foreign powers. Not even they shared membership in the commonwealth. Pakistan’s membership is a chance to sit alongside India as equal but the importance of strategic, political, and economic considerations in Pakistan’s relations with the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth is declining.
The UK refuses to mingle into the situation with India by fear of antagonizing both nations. The alliance in the commonwealth is nothing but a facade. The British see Pakistan as a strong link between the commonwealth and Muslim countries. And they see India as a way more important country on the international stage to take a position on the matter. If at the beginning in 1947, the UK was looked upon by both countries as a way to get out of the crisis, now, it’s too little too late. Pakistan seeks power outside of the commonwealth with its CENTO’s and SEATO’s membership. Pakistan even left the commonwealth in 1972 when members of the organization —Britain, Australia, and New-Zealand—recognized Bangladesh as a country. The year before in 1971 Pakistan and India went to war as India actively helped with the independence of East Pakistan which became Bengladesh.
Pakistan only continues to remain a member of the Commonwealth because it provides one more link with countries abroad and carries with it some prestige and a semblance of security. After all Pakistan “was born in the commonwealth”.
Today the conflict is nothing near the end. Last year in 2019, the Kashmir issue resurfaced when India decided to revoke article 370 of its institution. This article added in 1947 after independence give autonomy to the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir until a decision was made about its rule. It limited the power of India’s central government over the territory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2019 general election promised that the region will be fully integrated in India. This action resulted in a suicide bombing attacks on February 14 2019 and quickly followed by aircraft bombing over Pakistan by India. Skirmishes ensued quickly between the two nations.
India and Pakistan fully hope to gain the majority of the territory despite countless mediation. But both nations fail to recognize the will of the Kashmir population. It is known that the Muslim population in Kashmir doesn’t hide its opposition to the Indian rule but doesn’t want to be ruled over by Pakistan.
The Kashmir issue overshadows the other conflicts of the region. Kashmir seems to be destined to remain a place of conflict crystalizing the antagonism between Pakistan and India. This conflict seems to go beyond reason: In 2014 the military analyst Amarjit Singh declared that Pakistan would make India bleed by a “thousand cuts”.