Since the Partition of India in 1947, mutual rivalry and suspicion have characterized relations between India and Pakistan. Attempts by the two sides to redefine their relationship over the past several decades have met with failure. Even the involvement of the international community in the past has failed to facilitate sustained negotiations between the two sides. Pakistan’s foreign policy revolves around its competition with India, while India itself has been unable to look much beyond South Asia due to its difficult relations with Pakistan. Each country feels that the other is a threat to its existence (Cohen 2004; Ganguly 2001). Although many issues affect relations between the two countries, the most sensitive one is the status of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (Schofield 2001; Wirsing 1998). Two schools of thoughts exist in India with regard to the country’s relations with Pakistan. In simple terms, the division between the two schools comes down to whether or not India should engage Pakistan in talks, regardless of the irritants in the bilateral relationship. One side believes that without resolving political issues first, no progress can be made on other areas like economic, cultural, and sporting ties. This side believes that a complete end to Pakistan’s support to militant groups fighting in Jammu and Kashmir and prosecution of leaders of Jihadist groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which are based in Pakistan, should be a pre-condition for talks between the two sides. The adherents of this school do not belong to any one political party, institution, think-tank or media organization. In recent times, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has voiced this sentiment. There are a substantial number of people among the general public who also subscribe to this view. They consider Pakistan to be a danger to India. This side does not favor talks with Pakistan, unless it fulfills certain pre-conditions. The primary weakness of the hardline position is that there are very alternatives available to India apart from engaging with those in power in Pakistan. Any military adventure would be either unviable or may not achieve desired outcomes. The other side argues that developing economic, cultural, and sporting ties may help reduce the trust deficit and suspicions inherent in the relationship which, in turn, could facilitate negotiations on political issues. This side favors talks with Pakistan, without too many pre-conditions. Most recently, India’s
former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee attempted to normalize bilateral relations during his tenure using this approach. However, these efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful as a result of the Kargil War. This debacle strengthened the hardliners within India. Today, Vajpayee’s own political party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) favors a “no talks” approach before the politico-security issues are addressed. Prime Minister Singh appeared to show signs of desiring to
engage Pakistan around 2011, but due to continuing incidents of cross-border firing and militant incursion he has since become more cautious in his overtures to Pakistan. The balance of power shifts between hardliners and those wishing to engage with Pakistan depending on whether cross-border infiltration by militants, crossborder firings or terrorist attacks take place or not. In recent times, the 2008 Mumbai attacks and continuing incursions of militants in Jammu and Kashmir served to further damage bilateral relations. In the present juncture, other bilateral issues are held hostage to improvement in the situation along the Line of Control (LoC). The existence of these two schools illustrates that India does not have a long-term, consistent policy on Pakistan and instead adopts an ad hoc, tactical approach depending on the situation on the ground. This makes India’s policy towards Pakistan reactive in nature, where talks are seen as an end in itself rather than a means to build a meaningful relationship (Sareen 2013). The history of poor relations between the two sides has led some to become pessimistic about any near-term prospects of improvement of relations between the two countries. While not completely rejecting this view, it needs to be pointed out that the new trends and transformations in South Asia present an opportunity for both countries to reorient their relationship. The process of reorienting the relationship will be gradual. However, the possibility exists for making a break with the past. This chapter will first provide a background of relations between India and Pakistan. Following this, it will discuss the trends and transformations that may facilitate the process of reconciliation between the two states and lead to normalization of relations.