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India – Pakistan bilateral relations
India – Pakistan bilateral relations
India–Pakistan relations refer to the bilateral ties between the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The two countries have a complex and largely hostile relationship that is rooted in a multitude of historical and political events, most notably the partition of British India in August 1947; the India–Pakistan border is one of the most militarised international boundaries in the world. Northern India and most of modern-day Pakistan overlap with each other in terms of their common Indo-Aryan demographic, natively speaking a variety of Indo-Aryan languages (mainly Punjabi, Sindhi, and Hindi–Urdu).
Two years after World War II, the United Kingdom formally dissolved British India, dividing it into two new sovereign nations: the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The partitioning of the former British colony resulted in the displacement of up to 15 million people, with the death toll estimated to have reached between several hundred thousand and one million people as scores of Hindus and Muslims migrated in opposite directions across the Radcliffe Line to reach India and Pakistan, respectively. In 1950, India emerged as a secular republic with a Hindu-majority population and a large Muslim minority. Shortly afterwards, in 1956, Pakistan emerged as an Islamic republic with a Muslim-majority population and a large Hindu minority; it later lost most of its Hindu population following its defeat in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which saw the secession of East Pakistan as the independent country of Bangladesh.
While both countries established full diplomatic ties shortly after their formal independence, their relationship was quickly overshadowed by the mutual effects of the partition as well as by the emergence of conflicting territorial claims over various princely states, with the most significant dispute being that of Jammu and Kashmir. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three major wars and one undeclared war, and have also engaged in numerous armed skirmishes and military standoffs; the Kashmir conflict has served as the catalyst for every war between the two states, with the exception of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which instead occurred alongside the Bangladesh Liberation War.
There have been numerous attempts to improve the relationship, notably the Shimla summit, the Agra summit, and the Lahore summit, as well as various peace and co-operation initiatives. Despite those efforts, relations between the countries have remained frigid, following repeated acts of cross-border terrorism. According to a BBC World Service poll in 2017, only 5% of Indians view Pakistan’s influence positively, with 85% expressing a negative view, while 11% of Pakistanis view India’s influence positively, with 62% expressing a negative view.
India and Pakistan, particularly Northern India and Eastern Pakistan, to some degree have similar cultures, cuisines and languages due to common Indo-Aryan heritage which span through the two countries and throughout much of the northern subcontinent which also underpin the historical ties between the two. Pakistani singers, musicians, comedians and entertainers have enjoyed widespread popularity in India, with many achieving overnight fame in the Indian film industry Bollywood. Likewise, Indian music and film are very popular in Pakistan. Being located in the northernmost region of South Asia, Pakistan’s culture is somewhat similar to that of North India, especially the northwest.
The Punjab region was split into Punjab, Pakistan and Punjab, India following the independence and partition of the two countries in 1947. The Punjabi people are today the largest ethnic group in Pakistan and also an important ethnic group of northern India. The founder of Sikhism was born in the modern-day Pakistani Punjab province, in the city of Nankana Sahib. Each year, millions of Indian Sikh pilgrims cross over to visit holy Sikh sites in Nankana Sahib. The Sindhi people are the native ethnic group of the Pakistani province of Sindh. Many Hindu Sindhis migrated to India in 1947, making the country home to a sizeable Sindhi community. In addition, the millions of Muslims who migrated from India to the newly created Pakistan during independence came to be known as the Muhajir people; they are settled predominantly in Karachi and still maintain family links in India.
Relations between Pakistan and India have also resumed through platforms such as media and communications. Aman ki Asha is a joint venture and campaign between The Times of India and the Jang Group calling for mutual peace and development of diplomatic and cultural relations.
The evening flag lowering ceremony at the India–Pakistan border near Wagah.
The India–Pakistan border is the official international boundary that demarcates the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat from the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh. The Wagah border is the only road crossing between India and Pakistan and lies on the famous Grand Trunk Road, connecting Lahore, Pakistan with Amritsar, India. Each evening, the Wagah-Attari border ceremony takes place, in which the flags are lowered and guards on both sides make a pompous military display and exchange handshakes.
The size of India-Pakistan trade is very small relative to the size of their economies and the fact that they share a contiguous border. Trade across direct routes has been curtailed formally, so the bulk of India-Pakistan trade is routed through Dubai.
To know more about bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, please download our booklet.