Causes & Conflicts of the Indo-Pakistani Wars

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  • 0:01 Conflict Between India…
  • 1:09 First Indo-Pakistani…
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  • 5:19 Kargil War &…
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Instructor: Alexandra Lutz

Alexandra has taught students at every age level from pre-school through adult. She has a BSEd in English Education.

Pakistan and India have been rivals since their independence from the British Empire in 1947, and have fought wars over the disputed territory of Kashmir in 1947, 1965 and 1999. East Pakistan became the new nation of Bangladesh in 1971. Learn about all of this in this lesson.

Background to the Conflict Between India and Pakistan

'It is better for India to discard violence altogether, even for defending her borders.' Mohandas Gandhi said this in 1939. Much of the world today knows Gandhi for his successful, non-violent campaign against British rule in India. But since its independence in 1947, the subcontinent has not taken his words to heart.

Following the dissolution of the British Empire after World War II, the Indian Independence Act of 1947 created two new states: India, with a Hindu majority, and the new Muslim nation of Pakistan. Pakistan itself was divided into two regions (East and West Pakistan) with Indian land in between. The partition led immediately to riots, the migration of millions of people to the 'correct' side of the border, and hundreds of thousands of murders. What's more, the two nations continued to bicker over the formerly independent territory of Jammu and Kashmir, often simply called Kashmir.

The First Indo-Pakistani War (1947)

Kashmir's predominantly Muslim population was ruled by a Hindu Maharaja, or prince. The territory was supposed to decide for itself whether to join India or Pakistan, but in October 1947, the Muslims rebelled and Pakistani forces invaded to support them. The Maharaja asked India for help, indicating his decision to accede his territory to India.

The United Nations imposed a cease-fire on January 1, 1949, and both nations agreed that a referendum would be held in Kashmir to confirm the accession to India. So, why isn't that the end of the story? Because the referendum was never held. Pakistan argued that the Maharaja only made a deal with India because he was under duress, and that Pakistan was the rightful ruler of the Muslim population. The territory was divided along the cease-fire line, with India gaining most of the southeast portion while Pakistan gained the northwest. Pakistan soon split off the western edge as a semi-autonomous region known today as Azad, or Free, Kashmir.

The Second Indo-Pakistani War (1965)

War between India and Pakistan erupted again in 1965. Earlier in the year, India and Pakistan clashed over disputed boundaries. And then, in August, Pakistan tried to invade all of Kashmir. But this time around, both sides of the conflict possessed greater firepower thanks to the Cold War. The United States and Great Britain had supported India after a border conflict with China, and had armed Pakistan after it joined two organizations to limit communist expansion. This second Indo-Pakistani war quickly reached a stalemate.

The U.S. and U.K. agreed to cut off weapons shipments to both belligerents in support of a U.N. cease-fire, although this loss hurt Pakistan more. The Soviet Union stepped in to mediate a withdrawal. In January 1966, both governments signed the Tashkent Declaration, vowing to solve future disputes through diplomatic means.

The Third Indo-Pakistani War, or Bangladesh Liberation War (1971)

When Pakistan was originally created, back in 1947, the Muslim nation was divided geographically. Religion was about the only thing that East and West Pakistan had in common. In 1970, residents of East Pakistan elected parliamentary leaders that called for secession. When the Pakistani army forcibly blocked the new party from ruling and jailed its leader, protests erupted. Brutal suppression led to civil war between Eastern guerilla forces and the Pakistani military in 1971, and the movement of ten million refugees into India. The conflict grew when India invaded East Pakistan to support the independence movement.

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