Despite sharing a 1,900-miles-long border with massive populations of 220 million and 1.3 billion inhabitants, relations between India and Pakistan have remained worst particularly over Kashmir. In the timescale of more than seventy years, these two countries have fought four decisive wars and a couple of skirmishes. The first major war erupted in 1947, shortly after the controversial partition of the subcontinent after British Empire withdrew the subcontinent; ending in 1948 with a division of Kashmir with a Line of Control ( also known as the Berlin Wall of Asia); however, both India and Pakistan have been claiming sovereignty of both sides of the Kashmir. While the fact is Kashmiris do not want to be controlled by either side, most of the Kashmiris want freedom and an independent government and a sovereign state of their own. But what makes Kashmir a flashpoint is its geostrategic importance that has been addressed in The Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshal. According to the author, the full control of Kashmir would give India a window into the Central Asian countries and a border with Afghanistan (which is already a proxy of two countries especially now when most NATO forces have left the region). And it would ultimately benefit India as she would be in direct access to the Central Asian oil that is also one of the main reasons India joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2017.
Additionally, the full control by India would also deny the Pakistani border with China that would diminish the Pakistan-China relations which are often propagated as “taller than mountains and deeper than the oceans.” This was propaganda to make the United States nervous about cutting Pakistan off from the massive military aid it received from Washington to fight their so-called war on terror. But this propaganda could not work in Donald Trump’s presidency. On the other hand, if Pakistan would have full control of Kashmir it would directly strengthen Islamabad’s foreign policy options and deny Indian opportunities. It would also help Pakistan’s water security that Indus River originates in Himalayan Tibet, but passes through the Indian-administered part of the Kashmir before entering Pakistan so it would help to store more water for the growing population of Pakistan.
This strategic-depth of Kashmir has remained it history’s long disturbed and the most militarized zone of the world and this issue remains unsolved until states of Pakistan and India stop their armies and militias fighting with each other and leaving both countries spilling over a full-scale war with the inherent danger of the use of nuclear weapons as it is already experienced in 1999; and notably, this was the second time that the world was on the brinks of nuclear disaster after the famous Cuban Missile Crisis. According to one of the prominent scholars of Pakistan, the state of Pakistan has lost it’s almost chances to get Kashmir’s full control; Pakistan cannot get an inch of Kashmir, according to the current scenario, especially when India has annexed Kashmir last year in August 2019. Despite the action was a unilateral and against the United Nations Security Council’s articles on Kashmir that claim Kashmir as a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, but the Indian action was also a real political because on the one hand, using force in the interest of the state is realism, and on the other, believing in international norms and cooperation is a liberal idea on which Pakistan stood and faced an immediate defeat in Kashmir. Point here to make is Pakistan had been an aggressive power and it always initiated war stages, and India was seen on a responding side. But what happens this time is contrary to the historical events, it was an attack on Pakistani interest when India annexed Kashmir by revoking article 370 and 35A, in response what we see was just nothing from Pakistani side except claiming internationalization of the dispute. The truth is Pakistani leadership and policymakers actually failed to understand that Kashmir could only be conquered through force; and Pakistan had got that chance so many times in 1947, 1965, 1987, 1995, and finally in 1999. In 1984 also, Pakistan and India fought skirmishes on the Siachen Glacier at the altitude of twenty-two thousand feet which is considered as the history’s highest battle. But still, this highness didn’t give Pakistan a piece of Kashmir. At the end of the day, one can say that Pakistan has lost Kashmir not once, but so many times. Kashmir at the moment is officially an Indian state and Pakistan has lost the battle and even the nuclear deterrence also could not work.
Syed Jawad Ali
The writer is Student at Department of International Relations, University of Sindh, Jamshoro.