India-Pakistan Relations

By Avinash Kumar|Updated : August 9th, 2020

India-Pakistan Relations. With the partition of British India, two separate nations, India and Pakistan were formed. Since the very beginning, the immediate violent partition, wars, terrorist attacks and various territorial disputes overshadowed the connection. This is an important topic for the UPSC Prelims as well as for UPSC mains GS-2 paper on International Relations.

India-Pakistan Relations: Background; Evolution; Contentious Issues; Areas of Cooperation; Way Ahead

Since independence in 1947, both countries have fought three major wars, one undeclared war and are involved in armed skirmishes and military standoffs. The territorial dispute over Kashmir is that the main centre-point of these conflicts except for the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, which resulted within the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Despite several efforts to enhance the bilateral ties, which were successful in de-escalating tensions to a particular extent, the relationship has been hampered by frequent terrorist attacks and ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side.

Evolution of India-Pakistan relations

India-Pakistan relations from the very beginning are marked belligerently and mutual suspicion. this is often best manifested by the frequency of wars both the countries have fought against one another.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-48

  • It was the primary of the four Indo-Pakistan Wars fought between the two newly independent nations.
  • This war was fought between these nations over the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir which was under the control of Maharaja Hari Singh. Apprehensive of an invasion from Pakistan, Maharaja Hari Singh made a plea to India for assistance. Assistance was offered by the Indian government reciprocally to his signing an Instrument of Accession to India.
  • After the ceasefire, the matter was taken to the UN, were under a high pitched drama, US-UK sided with Pakistan due to their geopolitical considerations.
  • Thus, the war resulted in India securing two-thirds of Kashmir, including Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh.
  • Pakistan controls roughly one-third of the state, calling it as Azad (free) Kashmir.

Indo-Pakistan War of 1965:

  • Emboldened by India’s defeat in 1962 Sino Indian war, Nehru’s demise in 1964, India’s weak economic situation at the time, the perceived weakness of Indian military but the Pakistani military brass and qualitative superiority of Pakistan in military hardware and airpower( thanks to the American support), Pakistan started the war against India to “ defreeze the Kashmir problem, weaken Indian resolve, and drag India to the negotiation table without provoking general war “
  • The Indo-Pak War of 1965 initiated following the culmination of skirmishes that happened since April 1965 in Sir Creek region.
  • Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to hasten insurgency against India.
  • In September 1965, Pakistan launched a full-blown attack to capture Akhnoor and began bombing Kashmir. To bring Pak army under, pressure, India opened a replacement front in Punjab.
  • India launched a full-scale military response on Pakistan. This resulted in thousands of causalities on each side and witnessed an important engagement of armoured vehicles and thus the most important tank battle since war II.
  • The war halted after an UN-mandated ceasefire was declared following diplomatic intervention by the USSR and thus the US, and so the following issuance of the Tashkent Declaration. Better war planning by the leadership, quick deployment of forces and better use of resources available at its disposal led to Indian Military success.

Indo-Pakistan War 1971:

  • After 1947, Pakistan was geopolitically divided into two major regions, West Pakistan and East Pakistan, which is dominated by Bengali people.
  • After Pakistan launched its military operation (Operation Searchlight), a genocide of Bengalis in December 1971 and the political crisis in East-Pakistan, the situation went out of control in East Pakistan.
  • India intervened to support the rebelling Bengalis population. Indian government provided moral and material help to the Mukti Bahini resistance movement in East Pakistan. Awami League members also formed a government in exile in India.
  • Indian army launched an attack on East Pakistan from three sides and naval blockade of East Pakistan was imposed by the Indian navy, leading to the destruction of a significant portion of Pakistan’s naval strength.
  • The US Navy tried to blockade India but Soviet navy held them off in the Bay of Bengal.
  • With the surrender of 93,000 Pakistani forces, East Pakistan became an independent nation of Bangladesh.
  • Shimla agreement was signed on 2nd July 1972 where LOC was recognised, India gave back occupied land to Pakistan, POWs were repatriated and it was decided that Kashmir issue will be resolved peacefully through bilateral negotiations.

Kargil Conflict of 1999:

  • During the winters of 1998-99, the Indian army vacated their positions at high peaks in Kargil Sector of Kashmir as it used to do every year.
  • Pakistan Army exploited this opportunity to move across the line of control and occupied the vacant posts.
  • In Feb 1999, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Lahore and India-Pak signed the Lahore declaration.
  • But, the Indian army discovered in May 1999, when the snow thawed, that the high altitude Indian posts along LOC were occupied by Mujahideen/disguised Pakistan army units and India’s crucial link-NH1D from Srinagar to Leh could be easily targeted from these posts.
  • It resulted in intense fighting between Indian and Pakistan armed forces in the Kargil sector.
  • Backed by the Air Force, the Indian Army regained many of the posts that Pakistan had earlier occupied on Tiger hill, Tololing etc.
  • Pakistan later withdrew from the remaining area because of the international pressure and high causalities. On 26th July Kargil Diwas is celebrated.

Agra summit 2001

The Agra summit was a two-day summit meeting between India and Pakistan which lasted from 14–16 July 2001. It was organized to resolve long-standing issues between the two nations. At this meeting, various proposals like reducing nuclear arsenals, resolving the J&K dispute, and the cross-border terrorism was proposed. However, the negotiations broke down. Thus, the Agra treaty was never signed.

Areas of contention

 The entire history of Indo-Pak Relations has been largely a story of conflict and discord, mutual distrust and suspicion. Some major irritants in the relations of the two nations are:

  • Territorial Disputes: Pakistan is locked in multiple territorial disputes with India such as:
    • Kashmir: Because of the political differences between India and Pakistan, the territorial claim in J&K has been the subject of wars in the years of 1947, 1965 and also limited conflict in 1999 and violations of ceasefire and promotion of rebellion within the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu & Kashmir is still a contentious issue which is divided between these two countries by the Line of Control (LoC), that demarcates the line of the ceasefire agreed post-1947 conflict.
    • Siachen Glacier: Siachen Glacier located in Northern Ladakh in the Karakoram Range and is the 2nd largest glacier in the world. Siachen glacier is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. Before 1984, neither India nor Pakistan had any permanent presence on the glacier. In 1984, India got intelligence that Pakistan was planning to occupy Siachen Glacier. So, India launched Operation Meghdoot to reach the glacier first. By the success of Operation Meghdoot, the Indian Armed forces obtained the area at a higher altitude and Pakistani army getting control of much lower altitude. Thus, India has a strategic advantage in this region. As a result of the 2003 Armistice treaty between the two countries, firing and bombardment have stopped in this area, though both the sides have placed their armed forces in the region.
    • Sir Creek Dispute: Sir Creek is a 96-km estuary in the Rann of Kutch region of India. It lies between Gujarat (India) and Sindh (Pakistan). The dispute is about the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between the two countries. Pakistan claims the entire Sir Creek to be it's own according to a 1914 agreement which was signed between Government of Sindh and then Rulers of Kutch. Whereas India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as per a 1925 map. No country is willing to give away the creek to the other because that means a loss of a vast amount of Exclusive Economic Zone that is rich with gas and mineral deposits.


  • Water disputes:
    • The two nations have a long-standing issue over the sharing of waters from the Indus river. Both sides are at odds over how to manage and share the waters of rivers of the Indus system.
    • Before the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960, the arrangement to share east and west-flowing rivers was weak and ad hoc. The Indus Waters Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan and was brokered by World Bank.
    • As per the treaty, three rivers, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej were given to India for exclusive use and the other three rivers, Sindh, Chenab and Jhelum were given to Pakistan.
    • Although the treaty hasn’t been violated even during the 3 wars, this treaty failed to address the dispute since source rivers of Indus Basin were in India, having the potential to create drought and famines in Pakistan. Treaty is highly technical which leads to far-ranging interpretations and divergence.
    • The treaty does not provide for a definitive solution, so the two countries have frequently sought time-consuming and expensive international arbitration. The treaty also fails to adequately address the division of water during the shortage of river water flow. Last year, after the Pulwama terror attacks the Indian Government had stated that India would not allow its share of river waters to flow into Pakistan.
  • Cross-Border terrorism, propaganda and ceasefire violations:
    • Cross-border terrorism has been a contentious issue since independence. Even after the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement, post-Kargil Conflict came into effect, there have been ceasefire violations on regular basis from the Pakistan side of the border since the year 2009, leading to the multiple casualties of security forces and civilians on both sides.
    • Not just ceasefire violations, Pakistan sponsored terror attacks on India have also been a major issue between the two countries. 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Pathankot airbase attack, Uri attack and the most recent Pulwama attack are cases in point.
    • The Modi Government’s massive armed retaliation in surgical strikes of 2016 and Balakot airstrikes of 2019 has given a strong message to Pakistan that terror attacks will no longer be tolerated. However, recent terrorist encounters in Kashish show that complete elimination of terrorism is still elusive.
    • Apart from the terror attacks, Pakistan has been involved in anti-India propaganda. Recently, intelligence agencies warned the government about Pakistani propaganda on social media to malign India’s secular credentials with respect to Gulf countries amidst the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Kulbushan Jadhav case: Pakistan has accused Kulbhushan Jadhav of espionage as well as on spying. He was sentenced to death by the military court of Pakistan. According to India, Jadhav was a retired Naval Officer who was in Iran on a business trip and was falsely framed by Pakistan. India has demanded consular access of Jadhav many times but this demand has been rejected by Pakistan, citing frivolous reasons. After this India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and stated that Pakistan was violating Vienna Convention by denying Consular Access in Kulbhushan Jadhav The ICJ asked Pakistan to take a look again at Jadhav’s death sentence and allow consular access to India.
  • Trade conflict: Until 1965 India was Pakistan’s largest trading partner. But due to deterioration in relations trade volume came down to minuscule level. Tensions between the two countries in 2019 have reduced the already abyssal volumes of bilateral trade to near zero. After the Pulwama terrorist attack in February, India withdrew Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status for Pakistan and raised customs duty on Pakistani imports to 200%. In April, India suspended cross-LoC trade to stop the misuse of this route by Pakistan-based elements for infiltration and terror financing. Pakistan, in turn, closed its airspace to India for a prolonged time period.


Latest events that further reduced the engagement

  • Pulwama attack: First, there was the February 2019 Pulwama attack, India’s Balakot response, and Pakistan’s counter-response.
  • Article 370: After India abrogated Jammu & Kashmir’s special status on August 5, India and Pakistan have downgraded even their diplomatic presence in each other’s countries. Both the countries withdrew their high commissioners after the Article 370 issue.
  • Trade stopped completely: Bilateral trade, which, though minuscule, had managed to survive earlier shocks to relations, has stopped completely after the abrogation of Article 370.

Areas of Cooperation:

  • SAARC: Contentious relationship between the two important members of SAARC is the reason behind an unsuccessful journey of SAARC so far. If India and Pakistan are able to manage their relationship then both can play an important role in transforming SAARC from a failed organisation into a successful one. This will result in the overall development of South Asia, which is among the most underdeveloped regions of the world.
  • Climate change and disasters: As per the Global Climate Risk Index 2019, South Asia is among the most vulnerable region to the climate change and related disasters like floods, cyclones, droughts, etc. Both India and Pakistan can come together, along with other South Asian countries, in dealing with these disasters.
  • Kartarpur Corridor: Cooperation by India and Pakistan on the people-to-people level was showcased in the opening of Kartarpur Corridor. Similarly, other religiously or culturally important sites such as Shakti Peeth in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir can help in developing better People-to-people relations between the two countries.


  • Fight against COVID-19: India’s initiative of cooperation of all SAARC nations, including Pakistan, through video conferencing as well as India’s proposal of trilateral response with Pakistan and Iran to combat desert locust attack can lay down the path of greater cooperation between the two countries on issues impacting both of them, provided other bilateral issues are managed or resolved.

Potential of Indo-Pak relations:

  • Peace at the border, better relations between India and Pakistan and a solution to the Kashmir issue is arrived upon, then the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) can certainly benefit South Asian region, its people and the economy.
  • With better India-Pakistan relations, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline which originates in Turkmenistan and passes through Afghanistan, Pakistan and ends in India can also help secure the National Energy needs of both Pakistan and India.
  • A better India-Pakistan relationship can also help in meaningful stability in Afghanistan and thus overall security in the region.
  • SAARC may regain its relevance as it hasn’t delivered up to its expected potential mainly due to the contentious India-Pakistan relationship.
  • Reduced tensions between the two nations will help reduce the military expenditure and both can divert attention and resources towards other developmental activities. 
  • Since India and Pakistan have among the world’s highest number of poor, malnourished and illiterates, cooperation between the two will help achieve Sustainable development goals 2030 to a great extent.

Way ahead

  • For any meaningful engagement between India and Pakistan cross border terrorism has to come to an end. So, India must continue with its policy of “ Talks and terrorism can’t go hand in hand”.
  • However, both countries can keep on engaging at multinational forums like SCO, SAARC ( as seen during the Covid-19 crisis) and also continue with the Track 2 diplomacy. This will ensure that the window for frontline engagement is always open.
  • Initiatives such a Kartarpur Corridor can go a long way in improving the relationship, so other such avenues must be explored by the two countries.
  • India already has military and economic superiority over Pakistan To increase it further, India must focus on rapid economic development and modernisation of its armed forces.
  • The growing China-Pakistan nexus can undermine India’s strategic superiority vis a vis Pakistan. So India will have to manage its relations with China in the near future, especially after a growing backlash against China in the post-covid world.
  • To deal with terrorism emanating from Pakistan, India should keep on mounting international pressure on Pakistan through International as well as regional organisations.
  • Also, India must continue to isolate Pakistan diplomatically at the international stage, as was during after the Pulwama attack, Balakot airstrikes as well as after the abrogation of Article 370.
  • India must further enhance its border security infrastructure along its Western border under CIBMS.
  • To prevent any Pakistani propaganda to create fissures in the Indian society, Indian intelligence must keep a vigil on various platforms and the Indian government must make efforts to keep its house in order.


India-Pakistan relations have been and will continue to be, at least in the foreseeable future, tensed. These tensions can be resolved only at the bilateral level through negotiations and discussions once a conducive environment for talks is created.

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Vinod Yadav

Vinod YadavAug 10, 2020

Very very thanks
Jagriti Tiwari
It's very proper arrangements of events...
Afsana Khan

Afsana KhanAug 12, 2020

Sir Hindi ma notes banya please sir Hindi ma
Seema Sain

Seema SainAug 14, 2020

बन यह में को
Radhika Gour

Radhika GourAug 28, 2020

Sir yahi sabh Hindi me ablebal nhi he
Sonam Kanojiya
Sir kya international relations pr aapke notes basic ke liye kafi plz bta dijiye 😊
Kumbal Kumar

Kumbal KumarMay 30, 2021

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