EDGE297a                                                                                          December 6, 2002                                   




Conflict to Cooperation


Moving the India-Pakistan Relationship Forward


By, Mallika Paulraj




India with over one billion people and Pakistan with 140 million, together constitute over one-fifth of the world’s population. The chronic tension between the two has swallowed vast quantities of resources that directly affect the quality of life of this large portion of humanity. Additionally, the last four years have seen the threat of nuclear war between the two grow, a source of concern for the entire world.

This paper starts with a brief background on the Indo-Pak conflict, summarizes the current situation today, and relates the major problems that will need to be addressed to move towards peace. Next, it recapitulates international efforts that have historically helped alleviate similar stress between nations. Then it outlines a variety of diplomacy tools the world community can implement through its institutions of cooperation, such as multilateral intervention and promotion of economic interdependence on the part of India and Pakistan. Lastly, it lists immediate steps the Stanford community can take to promote Indo-Pak interdependence.



In 1947 British rule on the South Asian subcontinent ended, resulting in the formation of two states: a Hindu majority India and a Muslim majority Pakistan. The princely state of Kashmir that straddled the arbitrarily drawn border between the new nations, contained a Muslim majority, and was allowed to choose which nation to join. Political wrangling put a Hindu ruler in charge of this decision, and he decided to join India. Both feeling that their share of the partition was unfair, the Indians and Pakistanis have been in conflict ever since, with rights over Kashmiri determination a focal point of their contentions. Three major wars have been fought in 1948, 1965 and 1971. Tensions were greatly escalated by the testing of nuclear weapons by both countries in 1998. In 1999 the two fought over the barren Kargil pass at 9000ft, when India accused Pakistan of backing Islamic fundamentalist fighters from as far away as Chechnya to push back the Indians and create havoc along the line of control [Kargil 1999]. The latest diplomatic conflagration came on December 13, 2001 when allegedly Pakistani-supported terrorists entered the Parliament of India and attempted to violently take it over. This led to a near breaking of diplomatic ties between the nations, with both embassies scaling back staff.


The Current State of Affairs

The war over Kashmiri territory and the irreconcilable stance both nations have taken over it has persistently defined the India-Pakistan relationship. The dispute over Kashmir completely dominates all bandwidth of communication between the neighbors.


India takes the stand that Kashmir rightfully belongs to it, that Kashmir being mostly Muslim is beside the point because India is a secular country, and that the many Hindus that used to live in Kashmir have been driven out. India has no official intention of allowing Kashmiris a referendum on whether they want to remain part of India or not. Underlying this obdurate position are the many bids for secession being made by other Indian states especially in the Northeast. To the Indian government, if they allow one state to secede, how will they prevent other states from leaving as also? Thus India has an inflexible and non-negotiable position on the Kashmir.

Pakistan on the other hand, defines itself by its conflict with India. It feels cheated out of its right to Kashmir. Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, and in all probability, had the people of Kashmir been given a choice in 1947, they would have chosen to accede to Pakistan instead of India. Pakistan has already lost almost half its land area when East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh, a process abetted by the Indian military. Pakistan is vehement and uncompromising about its right to Kashmir and is actively pursuing this right.   

The US and the world community are alert firefighters, rushing to intervene diplomatically role when Indo-Pak relations start tipping towards the actively hostile. When the countries tested nuclear weapons (ineffective) sanctions were slapped on both, each time tensions escalate, international bodies commence gunboat diplomacy, and as the threat ebbs, international interest is withdrawn [Basrur 2002].



Unfortunately, so far very little has been done by world institutions of cooperation to promote economic interdependence, cultural education, academic dialogue, reestablishment of diplomatic formalities and other proven conflict diminishing political instruments.


Key Problems to Address

            As stated above, the Indo-Pakistan conflict seems intractable with such firm stands on each side. Pakistan defines itself by its conflict with India. Significantly smaller in India in land area, population, resources and thus military power, Pakistan has poured much of its budget into defense/ offense against India. It has even developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Indian aggression.

Pakistan has never truly been a democracy. No democratically elected government has finished a term in office in the nation’s fifty-five year history. Parliament is either dissolved and fresh elections are ordered, or a coup is staged, followed by the insertion of a military dictator.

India has also poured much of its resources as a nation into preparing to combat Pakistan instead of addressing its alarming levels of poverty and declining status in the world. A political economist has calculated that South Asia requires an investment of $8.6 billion per year for fifteen years to provide the population with universal primary education, basic healthcare, adequate nutrition and population growth control [Das 2000]. Diminishing the conflict between India and Pakistan is critical for the survival of their people.

Efforts to negotiate a peace between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have severe hurdles to face and the promise of resolution is faint. Instead of engaging each other only over the issue of Kashmir and defining their relationship by the conflict between the two, India and Pakistan should move towards cooperating on other issues such as trade and other mutually beneficial topics, in the hopes that eventually interdependence between the two will make Kashmir less relevant. There are many steps the world community can take by acknowledging the pertinacious issue of Kashmir, but still promoting cooperation on other fronts. Suggestions for cooperation are offered further into this paper. Once there is greater dimension to the Indo-Pakistan relationship than just Kashmir, the two states can hope to address their differences.


Cases of Increasing Interdependence

Germany and France have historically been bitter neighbors, fighting against each other in both world wars. Yet half a century later, they are both part of a strong European Union, sharing a free border, both using the euro, their previous quarrels seemingly forgotten and their citizens enjoying a better quality of life than their predecessors. What was the key to this? The answer to why peace is maintained is quite obvious – increased interdependence between Germany and France, where warring over disputes will harm each country too much to justify the gains of conflict. The majority of both states no longer thinks of their neighbor as an “other”, but is linked together with economic, political and cultural similarities. The more important question then arises - how did this interdependence come about? The slow disengagement from their issues of contention, and cooperating in mutually beneficial areas has evolved into a lasting peace. The intervention of the world community, especially the World War II rebuilding efforts of the US, the establishing of the United Nations, and the European Union have brought about these adjustments in attitude.

An example of a current peace between neighbors that have serious political differences but yet are willing to cooperate is the relationship between Egypt and Israel. After thirty years of squabbling and arms building, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David accords in 1978 outlining "the framework for peace in the Middle East" which included limited autonomy for Palestinians. In 1979, the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem signed the bilateral Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. To promote interdependence, the Israeli and Egyptian ministries of tourism were funded to begin a collaboration to bring about “Crossroads of the Ancient Worlds” tourism, promoting tours of the cradle of civilization where tourists could visit sights in Israel and Egypt in a single trip. Revenue from these tours provided a great boost to the Egyptian economy and it has been in Egypt’s best interest since then to keep the peace with Israel [BBC 2001].

Japan has been an important player in keeping the peace in Egypt.  It has given economic aid and technical assistance to Egypt over the years, building thermal heating plants, observing elections, overseeing disarmament and providing election material. Japan is Egypt’s largest donor, averaging about  $79 million per year during the 1990’s for hospitals, technical training and other nation building activities. It is of course difficult to find a direct correlation between this aid and Egypt’s thus far successful commitment to peace. It is impossible to come up with an equation that states $X in aid will result in amount Y of cooperation, but evidence suggests that these donations have given Japan significant influence over Egypt at peace talks and is therefore worth Japan’s outlay [Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2000].


Components of an Assistance Package

            Just as Egypt and Israel found themselves increasingly tied to peace to keep Japanese aid and tourism revenue flowing, so perhaps the world community can attempt to replicate this success with India and Pakistan.


            Anwar Sadat, a charismatic and determined person was a strong leader instrumental in pushing through the Egypt-Israel peace process. India and Pakistan have not seen powerful leaders in decades. Pakistan especially with its military controlled political machinery currently acts only in military strategic interest. The world community can help by trying to pressure Pakistan to move to a genuinely democratic state. The Indian government should also be chided into respecting the human rights of Kashmiri Muslims and refrain from the increasingly common departures from secularism. This can be done through education campaigns and diplomatic carrots and sticks.

The military budgets of both nations are booming. According to one estimate a mere 5 per cent reduction in the annual military budget of the two countries would release about 2 billion US dollars which could go a long way in fulfilling basic social needs of the people in the region [Das 2000].  Mounting international pressure on President Musharaff and Prime Minister Vajapayee may convince them to reduce military expenditure in return for foreign aid. Both the monies previously tied up in the defense budget and the aid could be used for public goods such as education and healthcare.

SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)

Europe, East Asia and South America have seen large trade gains and thus an increase in interdependence following the maturation of their respective regional economic associations (EU, ASEAN and Mercosur). SAARC, which India and Pakistan both joined in 1986, is a weak body and an underused diplomatic instrument.

India and Pakistan have a very tenuous trading agreement, limited to a few hundred goods. When an initial trade agreement was made in the late 1980’s, trade increased from $33 million in 1990-91 to over $100 million by 1992-93, showing the potential of increased economic openness. Both governments admit the presence of a large amount of informal smuggling of goods across the borders, amounting to about $320 million a year, which represents much lost revenue for both countries [Das 2000].

Paul O’Neil the Treasury Secretary spoke of increasing Indo-Pak trade during his trip to the subcontinent last month. International initiatives in SAARC, a ready-made mediating table can be used by influential persons such as O’Neil and the WTO head Panitchpakdi to give assurances to both sides and bring them into the world economy [The Hindu 2002]. 

Organizations of businesses that stand to gain from increased Indo-Pak trade, such as the National Shipping Corporation of Pakistan and the New Delhi Chamber of Commerce are already acting to put pressure on their two governments [Das 2002]. International support should be given to bodies such as these and efforts should be made to legalize goods that are currently traded illegally and therefore are lost sources of revenue.


            Many Himalayan areas that are currently off limits to tourists due to the ongoing conflict are rich in eco-tourism possibilities. Opportunities abound for hiking, rafting and wildlife watching. The area is also ripe for cultural tourism. Just like Egypt and Israel, history can now help the Indo-Pak border region, as it contains relics of the Silk Road, the invasion of Alexander the Great, the missing years of Jesus Christ and is the font of yoga and other spiritual disciplines that are growing in popularity in industrialized states.

            Official warnings, an unstable political environment and a lack of facilities have kept tourists away. Aid packages that promote the construction of guesthouses, training of guides, and promote active interaction and expansion of the Indian and Pakistani ministries of tourism, can go a long way towards removing these deterrents. Encouraging private business to invest in hotels, roads and the upkeep of attractions by giving out loans and securing investments will also promote growth of tourism.

Epistemic Communities

            By encouraging college students and researchers and promoting grants for archaeological surveys, historians and other preservers of information, organizing conferences, journals, web-portals and databases for Indo-Pak interdependence will help form a stronger worldwide epistemic community that can promote Indo-Pak relations. A strong Indo-Pak issues epistemic community currently exists. Although very necessary, it tends to concentrate much of its resources on nuclear disarmament, Kashmiri self-determination and other problems that are extremely difficult to solve. Perhaps it is time for academics to tackle some “softer” non-security debates.

Suggestions for Immediate Action and Funding


A recent news article states:

 “India has been hinting in recent weeks that if Pakistan ends its no-trade policy with India, it would be ready to lift many of the diplomatic measures it had put in place after the attack on Parliament on December 13.”  The Hindu, November 19, 2002.

The current environment is thus fortuitous in nudging India and Pakistan off the subject of Kashmir and promoting the mutual benefits that will come to both nations if they begin to cooperate in other areas.

            The Kashmir conflict is stubborn with no solution in sight. If India and Pakistan can begin to cooperate in economic, technological and social areas, some of the stubbornness, mistrust and lack of understanding of the other can be diminished. Increasing interdependence might eventually point both states out of the zero-sum territory they currently find themselves in. Promoting this cooperation will require the persistence of all of us - Indians, Pakistanis and citizens of the world.











A special thank you to Rajesh Basrur for sharing his knowledge and directing me to invaluable resources.


Cartoons available at http://cagle.slate.msn.com/news/INDIA-PAKISTAN/1.asp


Basrur 2002. Interview with Rajesh Basrur on November 15, 2002, Professor at University of Bombay. Visiting Professor at Stanford University.


Bristish Broadcasting Corporation 2001. World: In Depth. http://news.bbc.co.uk


Das, Suranjan. 2000. “Regional Security through Constructive Bilateralism: Prospects for South Asian Stability”. http://www.epw.org.in/


Haqqani, Husain 2002. Journalist. Talk given at Stanford University November 22, 2002.


The Hindu. November 19, 2002. “US backs trade for peace”. C. Raja Mohan



Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.2000. http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/middle_e/peaceprocess/support.html


Kargil 1999. http://www.jammukashmirinfo.com/Kargil/Default.htm