INDIA-PAKISTAN RELATIONS: AN IDEOLOGICAL CONFLICT MAKING INDIAN FOREIGN POLICIES GO DOWN IN FLAMES by- Sriradha Rai Choudhuri
Inder Malhotra in India Today in 1991 wrote an article, which stated quite aptly, “India’s efforts to develop friendly neighbourly relations with Pakistan is like the act of Sisyphus, the Greek mythological character, who was found trying to roll a rock up the hills with the help of a stick and was trying to do it again and again when it used to fall down eventually.”
India’s relation with Pakistan is one of a kind. The relations between these two neighbours, once part of the same territory seems to be like an exponential curve turning worse every single day. With India taking several steps to resolve this never-ending crisis, Pakistan counters each step with further attacks on Indian territory and its civilians. This paper first tries to answer the reasons why such an animosity between the two nations still prevails by highlighting issues like the Kashmir dispute, Bangladesh liberation war, river water sharing conflicts, Pakistani terrorism, nuclear and arsenal rivalry, and China-Pakistan relations becoming stronger every day. With several significant examples like the Pulwama attack, Uri surgical strike, China Pakistan economic corridor, SEATO Pakistan alliance, Siachen glacier standoff, Article 370 revocation, Al Qaeda terrorist group and Pakistani support to Taliban government in Afghanistan, the paper has tried to bring forth how the struggle still continues to resolve the relations. Moreover, the paper brings forth the several steps like grant of MFN status, Simla Agreement, Hurriyat Conference and others to show the everlasting Indian initiatives.
This paper is an effort to showcase how good foreign policies can also fail eventually, because of the inbuilt tensions between two countries that never seem to fade away. The ideological struggles render almost every attempt to resolve tensions a complete failure.
When we talk about public policy, we refer to those key instruments that are essential for a good governance. Foreign policies are similar methods that are utilized in the international sphere to conduct cordial relations and interactions with other states and further one’s own objectives.2
The objectives of a foreign policy are two-fold-
- Promoting own national interest through safeguarding independence, autonomy, security and other vital
- Creating a stable and effective international system that would work in its favour and where its goals can be easily
Foreign policy depends on a country’s geographical location, population, military power, leadership and diplomatic qualities. For example, a country located far away from the mainland as an island nation would have very different foreign policies than a country located as a neighbour to two warring countries.
India’s position is a unique one. On one side due to the presence of water on three sides and the great Himalayas on the other, it would seem that it is difficult to attack India; the opposite view to this that is becoming more active with time is the presence of neighbours with which India is unable to maintain good relations, with howsoever changes it makes to its foreign policy. With Pakistan, China, Afghanistan not being enough as a threat, even Nepal has started to formulate policies that disadvantage India.
Although a completely peaceful situation is almost impossible to create, but neighbour countries have shifted from maintaining good relations to coming at conflicting positions and vice versa. Pakistan is an exception to this and India-Pakistan relations serve as the greatest example in the entire international sphere whether now or in the past of how poor relations between two neighbours can never end.
The disputes are many, balancing factors are less and whatever may be the foreign policy of India, the ideological conflict always makes Pakistan see it in a bad light. In fact, the dispute has grown bigger such that now even India has stopped trying to maintain good relations with Pakistan. Everyone had thought that India and Pakistan would be allies just like US and Canada because of their economic, cultural similarities- everything was similar except the religious divide. NisidHajari writes, “When they partitioned, there were probably no two countries on Earth as alike as India and Pakistan”.3 The bloody partition brought about by the formation of the Muslim League, a claim for a separate state by Jinnah and the support from British in doing so through the Mountbatten Plan left a huge scar on Indo-Pak relations for times to come. In fact, Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on the 14th of August, maybe to celebrate its partition from India.
Today, as was also in the past, there are several issues that haunt both India and Pakistan. Like the given statement by Inder Malhotra, the issues are huge as a rock which cannot be improvised by weak stick like foreign policies. In fact, the rock is so huge that no stick has till now been created that could push that rock uphill, until the gravity of the earth itself changes.
India-Pak issues can be divided under certain heads which would give a glimpse of how problematic the relations are. These heads are-
- Kashmir issue
- East Bengal liberation from Pakistan to form Bangladesh
- River water sharing disputes
- Territorial and Border disputes
- Pakistan as a part of several military alliances
- Sino-Pak relations as an Indian threat
- Pakistan as a terrorist safe haven
After the partition on religious lines, the control over Kashmir has always remained a contentious issue for India-Pakistan relations. Kashmir is a Muslim majority state which was ruled by a Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh at that time. Mountbatten had recommended Kashmir to accede to India as India was a secular nation, but also wanted it to remain independent fearing that the population could create riots to move to Pakistan.
Pakistan wanting to take control penetrated into independent Kashmir with its tribesmen and established its armed forces. This led to Maharaja Hari Singh asking for India’s help to remove Pakistan from its territory. India could not do so until the treaty of accession was signed by Kashmir’s ruler because till then Kashmir would be a different territory and its allegiance to UN would prevent it from any interference. This led to the signing of the accession treaty and India entering into the first Indo-Pakistan war. Later, the war ended with a ceasefire agreement and the creation of a LOC which created the PoK region or what Pakistan called Azad Kashmir.
It was then that the matter was taken up to the UN for mediation to resolve the crisis and the UN asked both the Pakistani and Indian troops to withdraw, after which a plebiscite would decide the Kashmir issue. Although, India agreed to withdraw, Pakistan still kept its forces grounded, which led to a stalemate and no conclusion was ultimately reached.4
Even though nothing was decided through the UN involvement, the popularly elected Constituent Assembly of J&K in 1954 confirmed the signing of the accession to India and thus made it irrevocable.
Control over Kashmir being a huge strategic gain for both India and Pakistan due to its resources, scenic beauty and geographical location has never been settled till date. Through Kashmir flows the Indus River which is a major irrigation source for both nations. Again, it is Kashmir that forms the bridge for movement between South and Central Asia, which is vital for both. For India, Kashmir is the only route to reach to Central Asia and the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir acts as a barricade for Pakistan-Chinese joint operations, thus also strengthening India’s security. For Pakistan, they have always wanted the UN plebiscite to be done and have accused the then ruler of Kashmir to have illegally acceded to India when the majority population was Muslim. Thereafter, India’s total control over Kashmir can leave Pakistan at the mercy of India, as India would then have control over the Indus River without which Pakistan can go into drought, India can position its troops quite close to Pakistan cities because of Kashmir and India can prevent China-Pakistan ties to strengthen.5
At present, two further causes of disruption have emerged, further straining India-Pak relations-
- The revocation of special status of J&K by repealing Article 3706 has induced tensions among the people and leaders of J&K who have started to distrust India and believe that their decision to accede to India and trusting its democratic institutions was a 7
- Pulwama attack- This terror attack in J&K to create fear among the Indians resulting in the death of 40 CRPF personnel on February 14, 2019 has not only deteriorated Indo-Pak relations beyond repair, but has been condemned 8
The ‘Muktijuddho’ or the War of Liberation as it is called came to be seen as the next biggest point of contention between India and Pakistan. West Pakistan had always discriminated against East Pakistan by derogating the Bengali language, utilizing all the earnings from foreign exports of the East, strengthening its own region by taking advantage of the expenditure on the armed forces in the East- the fruits of which were bore by West Pakistan alone without any recognition of the East. The Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won the provincial elections by overpowering the Muslim League, after which the autonomy of East Pakistan and the distribution of powers between the federal government and federating states was asked for, but which was rejected. India started to engage in heavy diplomatic talks with the West to garner their support for the East Pakistan liberation. The Indo-Pak relations were further strained with Pakistan committing genocidal activities and hijacking and blowing up Indian planes. The refugees flowing in from East Pakistan into India were trained in warfare and guerilla activities. Freedom fighters were arranged in 9 sectors with leaders from the East Pakistan army. Arms and ammunitions were supplied.
Finally, India in 1971 helped East Pakistan to liberate and form Bangladesh.9 This led to everlasting poor relations between India and Pakistan as Pakistan further lost control over its territory due to Indian intervention.
RIVER WATER SHARING DISPUTES-
India had a standstill agreement with Pakistan wherein it had agreed to supply water to the Pakistani canals but it had expired on April 1948. After this and before the Indus Water Treaty came into existence, another agreement was also entered into by India, but with a condition that India cannot supply water perennially. This was however violated by Pakistan which had already started the water sharing problems with India.
In fact, it is due to the need of the Indus water for irrigation and protection from drought that both India and Pakistan, but especially Pakistan fight over the control of Kashmir.
Thereafter in 1960, the Indus Waters Treaty mediated by the World Bank was signed by both the nations in which the eastern rivers of Indus amounting to 33 million-acre feet were given to India and the western rivers amounting to 135 million-acre feet were given to Pakistan. It was also specified in the treaty that India would have unrestricted use including the creation of hydropower projects on the eastern rivers and the same control would be given to Pakistan for the western rivers. Any interference in the waters of other’s region could be challenged by the one having the control.10
The Tulbul Project on the Jhelum-river by India which is under the control of Pakistan raised huge protests from Pakistan. Whenever the migrant workers would be dropping in cement bags to construct the project, grenades would be thrown from the Pakistan side. In fact, India also tried to conceal the process from the Pakistani visiting officials. India holds that this project is not for storage purpose and only for non-consumptive use of navigation and hence allowed under the treaty. At the same time, Pakistan contends that it was not taken into confidence and it harms its own project that links Jhelum and Chenab with Upper Bari Doab Canal.11
The Kishanganga Project and the Ratle project started for hydropower generation had to undergo a pause that is still continuing with Pakistan objecting it as being in conflict with the Treaty and the World Bank calling the resolution by neutral expert as requested by India and a Court of Arbitration as requested by Pakistan to a halt and letting India and Pakistan decide on this inconclusive debate. Also, after Article 370 repeal and creation of Ladakh from J&K territory, India has started projects like DurbukShyok, Shankoo, Rangdo and others that is still to be discussed with Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan’s recent conflict is the Indian construction of Pakal Dal and Lower Kalnai dams in the J&K region that will damage the flow of river water that is required for 80% of the irrigation of Pakistan.12
No end is near and it looks like every time India constructs any dam or initiates any hydropower project related with those 6 rivers in the Indus Valley, Pakistan will always have something to say to pause the projects.
TERRITORIAL AND BORDER DISPUTES
Territorial and border disputes have been a major concern which has also led to wars in 1947, 1965 and also a limited war in 1999. The Line of Control between India and Pakistan has not been clearly defined which leads to regular exchange of fire. There has been increased cross border shelling with more than 4000 such violations in the 2017-18 period.13
The Uri surgical strike and the Balakot strikes by India after 18 remote Indian soldiers were killed in a deadly attack in Uri and the Pulwama attack in recent February 2019 are all examples of the ever-increasing border conflicts and the degrading Indo-Pak relations.14
The Siachen glacier standoff also remains another point of conflict that still remains unresolved. Although, India took over the control of the Siachen glacier from Pakistan in a narrow breakthrough, Indian and Pakistani armies stand in the same positions for over 30 years now fearing a counter attack from Pakistan anytime. It is said that what had started only as a small conflict with some crampons and climbing rope has turned into a high-altitude trench warfare.15
Another raging dispute is the interpretation of the control over the maritime boundary line, Sir Creek. It is a 96 km water strip in the Rann of Kutch Marshlands. This divide the Kutch and Sindh regions, but the problem is that Kutch lies in India while Sindh lies in Pakistan. Pakistan claims the entire creek, but India claims that the line runs mid-channel which also gives a share of control to India.16
Apart from the above, the Radcliffe Line was always a bone of contention, although now there are fewer ethno-religious conflicts over the Radcliffe Line than before. Still problems like district of Khulna going to East Pakistan, some Hindu-majority areas going away to Sindh, and Lahore being the erstwhile capital of Sikh empire going over to the Muslim majority Pakistan still strongly bears on certain parts of India and Pakistan for over 70 years.17
PAKISTAN AS A PART OF SEVERAL MILITARY ALLIANCES
India from the very start always followed Panchsheel and Non-Alliance Movement policies so as to preserve its independence that it had taken so long to gain after colonialism.
Pakistan on the other hand totally went against such policies and decided to be part of several US military alliances that were taking shape during the Cold War. Pakistan signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the US in 1954 and became part of SEATO. Later, it also joined the Baghdad Pact that came to be known as CENTO.18
Pakistan joining these alliances had a connection to an Indian animosity and the fear of an Indian offensive in the mind of Pakistani leaders. Moreover, Pakistan lacked enough troops and military power to safeguard separate East Pakistan. Pakistan had asked for help from international organisations like the UN, Commonwealth, but to no avail. As a result, it had to join hands with the US to receive the technical, military, educational and health benefits from USA and strengthen its own position in the international sphere.19
India opposed such military alliances due to three primary reasons-
- These alliances would bring the impact of Cold War quite close to India and disturb India’s peace that it had long after received from the shackles of British
- It would upset the balance of power that existed between India and Pakistan, which would be really harmful for
- This would again bring in foreign domination that India had tried to resist through Panchsheel and
Pakistan realizes that countering India heads on would be difficult and hence, it uses tactics like taking help of foreign powerful nations to strengthen its nuclear weapon store which could be used in a future conflict with India. This nuclear rivalry acts as a real threat to India.20
SINO-PAK RELATIONS AS AN INDIAN THREAT
China had turned from a close friend of India with India recognizing China’s status in the international domain, to a similar enemy like Pakistan, especially after the 1962 war which Pakistan took as an advantage. Today India’s relations with both Pakistan and China seem to be the worse in international relations that do not seem to heal, but becomes bitter by the day. Today, India has been troubled with the Galwan valley problem for over a year.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor through the PoK region has strengthened and cemented the ties between China and Pakistan. China has an ‘all weather strategic partnership’ with that of Pakistan. China has been putting its resources into Pakistan, and such a relation holds as a military and security threat on the northern, western and eastern borders of India.21 In fact, the presence of Kashmir’s Siachen glacier is the only hope for India to keep Pakistan and China from not becoming neighbours, which would be dangerous for India.
PAKISTAN AS A TERRORIST SAFE HAVEN
The US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2019 has stated on Pakistan’s stance on terrorism- “it has continued to serve as a safe haven for certain regionally focused terrorist groups,” and has “allowed groups targeting Afghanistan … as well as groups targeting India …to operate from its territory”. The US Trump administration had decided to suspend military aid to Pakistan because of its terrorism support.
It has been stated that Pakistan harbours almost 12 terrorist groups on its soil, that have launched major terrorist attacks on India from the time of partition till today, the Pulwama attack being the most recent horrendous terror attack. Some other major attacks on India include-
- Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) – 2008 Mumbai attack
- Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) – 2001 Indian Parliament attack
- Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI), Hizb-ulMujahideen (HM), Al Qaeda are certain other terrorist groups that have caused chaos and violence in Kashmir and seeks annexation of Kashmir to 22
- Uri terror attack by 4 heavily armed terrorists from PoK
Moreover, the Taliban in Afghanistan is a creation of Pakistan itself and gets supported by Pakistan with a view to maintain an unstable government in Afghanistan that would not be able to launch attacks on Pakistan by joining with India.23Pakistan could have been blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force for terrorism and money laundering if not for the support of China, Malaysia and Turkey.24
STEPS BY INDIA TO RESOLVE PAKISTAN CRISIS WITHOUT A GOOD END
India has time and again tried to resolve issues with Pakistan. Following the norms of WTO, India had also granted Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan in 1996 so that trade barriers could be removed between the two nations and Pakistan would not fall in a disadvantageous situation in comparison to other Indian trade partners. Unfortunately, Pakistan never reciprocated the same and currently, after the Pulwama attack, no MFN status exists.25
Also, the Simla Agreement of July, 1972 was a major step taken to bring about peaceful relations between the two nations after the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, which contained the inviolability of the J&K Line of Control as a major step.26
Indian Prime Ministers have always taken initiative to build good relations with the Prime Ministers of Pakistan- like sending an invitation to Nawaz Sharif for a swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Modi congratulating Prime Minister Imran Khan on his election victory. But it is disheartening to see thatonly increased cross border terrorism has been Pakistan’s response.27
The hope for talks has still not ended, with the 2020 Hurriyat Conference being conducted on the issue of resolving disputes between the two nations and stopping such unnecessary bloodshed of innocent civilians in the Jammu and Kashmir region.28
Although, there is no harm in taking more steps towards peaceful relations between the two nations, the question still remains whether India is only “crying over spilled milk”. However, after the recent accidental launch of a missile from the Indian side into Pakistani territory, with Pakistan ordering for a thorough investigation, but maintaining its cool, maybe a very small sign of some hope for the future.29
The above discussion helps to conclude that Inder Malhotra’s statement was absolutely correct with respect to India-Pakistan relations. He wrote the statement in 1991, but it rings true even today and maybe for all the days while India and Pakistan are in existence. In fact, the current scenario shows a much worse picture and it seems now that even Sisyphus has lost all hope and the rock is tumbling downwards into an abyss.
With Pakistan’s persistent attack on Kashmir, its relations with China that has become better recently, its terror attacks on India, the boundary and water sharing disputes that does not seem to stop, and Pakistan being part of military alliances from the days of Cold War have created such tensions between the two countries that they don’t seem like being part of one single nation before the partition. The partition that happened did not end there- the line separating the two has separated them not only territorially, but psychologically, ideologically and emotionally, such that whatever attempts are made whether through the UN, other international organizations, or by trying to form good relations through talks and invitations – nothing has worked and it has degraded further rather than improving. Previously, with every new leader of India and Pakistan, there was a hope that the two could cooperate with each other, and now the citizens of each country hopes that every new leader should take actions against the other.
The British separated India and Pakistan, but the situations as of yesterday, today as well as what will come tomorrow has cemented this separation until both gets ruined by some other powerful nation waiting to take the advantage. The only solution for both of them to come out of any future retaliation by some other nation, is to join hands today, which remains a fantasy to this day.
1 Student at Hidayatullah National Law University
2Foreign Policy, BRITTANICA (Nov. 15, 2021, 9:23 AM), https://www.britannica.com/topic/foreign-policy.
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15 Andrew North, Siachen dispute: India and Pakistan’s glacial fight, BBC NEWS (Apr. 12, 2014), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-26967340.
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23 Vanda Felbab-Brown, Why Pakistan supports terrorist groups, and why the US finds it so hard to induce change, BROOKINGS (Nov. 26, 2021, 6:08 PM), https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from- chaos/2018/01/05/why-pakistan-supports-terrorist-groups-and-why-the-us-finds-it-so-hard-to-induce-change/. 24Prabhash K. Dutta, New friend Turkey on terror watch list, who will help Pakistan at FATF now?, INDIA TODAY (Oct. 26, 2021, 10:27 AM), https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/turkey-on-terror-watch-list-who- will-help-pakistan-at-fatf-now-1867978-2021-10-22.
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29Debak Das, Not much happened after India’s accidental cruise missile launch into Pakistan—this time, THE BULLETIN (Mar. 25, 2022), https://thebulletin.org/2022/03/not-much-happened-after-indias-accidental-cruise- missile-launch-into-pakistan-this-time/#:~:text=BY%2DSA%203.0.-