Peace Negotiations, Diplomacy & the Indo-Pakistan Conflict

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

The conflict between India and Pakistan has simmered, and occasionally boiled, for nearly a century. in In this lesson, learn about efforts to reduce violence and even to bring the conflict to an end. Updated: 11/25/2019

Unhappy Neighbors

Since their independence from the British Empire in 1947, both Pakistan and India have been locked in a deadly rivalry for territory control, ideological supremacy, and political advantage. On top of three separate wars, these two nuclear weapons states employ military strikes and terrorism to this day, with civilians not infrequently hurt or killed in attacks. Efforts to bring the two South Asian nations to a diplomatic agreement on issues like Kashmir have not yet succeeded entirely.

Cold War Relations

During the 1970s and 1980s, the later decades of the Cold War, both India and Pakistan's global standing was a smaller issue than the greater rivalry between the United States and Soviet Union. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union fought a war in next-door Afghanistan, where the U.S. funded Islamic jihadi soldiers willing to fight the communists.

Pakistan, an American ally, worried about whether the violence in Afghanistan would spill over into its own borders, but benefited from the influx of money and weapons, as some were directed towards insurgency groups fighting Indian soldiers and police in Kashmir.

President Ronald Reagan (center, wearing a black suit) meets with Afghani and Pakistani leaders in the 1980s.

The United States hoped that India, a Soviet ally, might encourage withdrawing from Afghanistan. President Reagan encouraged India and Pakistan to open up lines of dialogue to create peace, and more importantly, turn away from the influence of communist powers. This attempt at dialogue failed, and with the collapse of communism in 1991, American foreign policy devoted less attention to the two countries.

United Nations Mediation

It is very common for nations at war, or in some state of conflict, to appeal to the United Nations for assistance and mediation (acting as a neutral partner in a negotiation). The United Nations also passes resolutions in the hopes of preventing war.

Between the 1940s and 1970s, about a dozen different resolutions by the U.N. attempted to mitigate violence in Kashmir. The U.N. keeps a peacekeeping observer group in Kashmir to maintain peace, although India and Pakistan both argue that this is not necessary due to a 1972 treaty that formalized Kashmir's borders in principle.

These peacekeepers work to maintain the ceasefire, although there has been criticism by both India and Pakistan that they are ineffective, or that their mandate for peacekeeping has expired.

United Nations peacekeepers, known for their iconic blue hats and helmets, have worked for decades to stop violence in Kashmir

Diplomacy and Terrorism

In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the subsequent War on Terror, diplomats from across the world have urged India and Pakistan to better manage terrorism in Kashmir and to improve relations as a result. Some of these efforts have been successful.

In 2004, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and India prime minister Manmohan Singh held talks on ending the violence in Kashmir. However, the talks never went further than at the highest level, meaning that coordinated peace efforts never took root.

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