It seems India and Pakistan relations are once again getting intertwined in the emergent ‘neo-cold war’ between America and Russia. Ostensibly, the two countries are yet to learn a lesson from the past. It has been for the myopic foreign policy of Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and the Pakistan leadership in the early fifties that the two countries have failed in addressing the Dispute inherited at the time of their birth. But for aligning with the rival superpowers, the two countries could have resolved the Kashmir Dispute and other outstanding issue.
Nehru explicitly had ideological nearness with the communist Soviet Union. It was, but for this proximity, despite avidly vouching for non-alignment he made the cold war politics as the core foundation of India’s foreign policy.
Its immediate fallout was New Delhi defeating its much-trumpeted proposition of holding a plebiscite in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. Indira Gandhi, as back as 1948, had informed her father that with the support of Sheikh Abdullah and his party National Conference India was certainly winning in case a plebiscite was held. When the National Conference for ratifying the temporary and conditional accession, had held sham election for the State Constituent Assembly New Delhi had distanced itself from these developments in Kashmir. It had reiterated its commitment in the Security Council for holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. India at the international level stood for holding of the plebiscite. It had agreed to all the resolution passed in the Security Council. Nonetheless, for keeping the Soviet leaders in good humor, Nehru created a big hullabaloo- a diplomatic fuss over the United Nations appointing an American Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz as Plebiscite Administrator, for Jammu and Kashmir.
The Security Council had not arbitrarily made this appointment but after India and Pakistan had agreed to it. In its resolution no 80, 1950, the Security Council had commended India and Pakistan for statesmanlike action in reaching the agreement. (Document No. S/1469), dated the 14th March 1950). Thus, it became major impediment for holding of plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and perpetuating of the Kashmir Dispute.
Nehru’s predilection for Soviet Union send alarming bells about the Security concern in Pakistan. In 1949, the US Defence experts recognized Pakistan’s strategic importance for checkmating the USSR ambitions and preventing communist encroachments in South-Asia. In the interest of the security concerns of their country, the Pakistan leadership showed their willingness to support any US-backed effort to prevent communist expansion in the region. Nehru sharply reacted to the US-Pakistan Agreement and Pakistan joining SEATO and CENTO. Nehru ignited a firestorm in India against the US-Pakistan defense agreement, and central theme of his agitation was that US had brought cold war to India’s borders and it was going set up bases in Pakistan and the AJK. ‘He told the chief ministers of the Indian states that America’s concerns with Kashmir stemmed from its interests in establishing a military base in the heart of Asia and in exploiting the state’s possibly rich mineral wealth, including uranium and other strategic ores.’ Nehru did not stop at this only; he added a new argument that ‘arms supply to Pakistan could trigger Hindu Muslim tension in India.’ To quote the then US Ambassador in India George V. Allen, “Nehru had seized on military aid to Pakistan as an excuse on Indian commitment to plebiscite.” Nehru exploited his proximity with the Soviet Union as balancing force and Kremlin was eager to play its role- this whole game worked to the disadvantage of Kashmir – defeated resolution of the Dispute. The cold war ended, but Kashmir continues to remain core issue between India and Pakistan, cause of tension and a nuclear flashpoint in South Asia.
Six and half decades after India and Pakistan were sucked into the cold war nothing has substantially changed except the two countries swapping their alliance partners. New Delhi has stolen a march over Islamabad in taking its relations with America “old ally” of Pakistan to new levels and Pakistan endeavoring to improve its ties with Moscow.
On Thursday September 6, 2018, New Delhi and Washington signed a key defence deal, after the first 2+2 dialogue between the two countries, where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met visiting American counterparts, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan. Noticeably there is not much on Pakistan in the joint statement, nevertheless New Delhi feels satisfied on America’s use of language about Kashmir, to quote Indian Express, “the US signed off on using New Delhi’s language and used “territory under Pakistan’s control”, and not Pakistan’s “territory” — to describe Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. They also slammed the use of “terrorist proxies,” a description for extremist political groups used by Pakistan’s army in the region.” Nonetheless, the agreement has wide-ranging consequences that go beyond India-Pakistan relations and involves India’s relations with Russia, China, and Iran. Bill Burns former US Secretary told the Hindu, Washington’s unease over India’s ties with Russia and Iran must not be underestimated.
In view of India and the United State strategic partnership having strengthened during Trump regime, Pakistan is looking forward for a strategic partnership with Russia. According to an in-depth study by a British think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Islamabad ‘doesn’t see Russia as threat anymore and close defense relations between former hostile powers is visible.’ The study says, “As a US led by President Donald Trump further isolates Pakistan, the army under General Bajwa is shoring up its Western flank with the help of its erstwhile enemy, the Russian military.”
In this bizarre scenario when the India and Pakistan, two important South Asian nuclear countries seem once again getting entangled in the power game of former cold war rivals, there is a good tiding from “Rawalpindi.” On Tuesday, New York Times reported that Pakistan military has quietly reached out to its arch-rival India about resuming peace talks.’ In the recent past, it is for the first time when Pakistan military has taken the initiative for recommencement of peace talks between New Delhi and Islamabad. In describing General Bajwa’s statement advocating for resolution of the conflict through dialogue as a rare statement for military. The initiative by Pakistan army for resolving the conflict between the two countries through dialogue needs to be seized and built upon- the initiative has come up at a time when civilian administration and military are avidly on page.