Ever since the British Empire withdrew from the Indian subcontinent and left independent Pakistan and independent India to their own rule, the two countries have been in seemingly constant conflict. British India was divided into two areas, predominantly Muslim Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India, with Sikhs and other minorities left in the dark. The fighting began almost immediately.
It’s not really India or Pakistan’s fault. As with most post-colonial violence, blame lies solely on the Europeans. In this case, Britain decided to grant independence to British India on August 14, 1947, without ever consulting either side about what the new borders should look like. Instead, they flew a lawyer who had never been to Asia to India and gave him two days to draw a new map. The result was 16 million people displaced, two million killed and unprecedented violence against women. That was just the first clash in a series of clashes over the course of nearly 90 years.
Here are four reasons why Pakistan should celebrate its independence by not going to war with India ever again.
Kashmir. It’s almost always Kashmir. The state of Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu when the British partitioned India, but he ruled over a Muslim population, so couldn’t decide which country to go to. When Muslims attacked Kashmir to pull it into Pakistan, he turned to India for help. The result was a split country that is still disputed. In 1965, Pakistan began to infiltrate Kashmir with its troops, Tet Offensive-style (but before the Tet Offensive).
Once in Kashmir, they were to incite an uprising against Indian rule. Once the uprising was on, Pakistan would invade. Except it didn’t happen. India got wind of the scheme and when Pakistan suddenly invaded without the popular uprising, India had enough troops to keep Pakistan from advancing. A ceasefire was declared, but all neutral assessments believe Pakistan would have lost the war, and probably all of Kashmir.
In the Kargil district of Kashmir, Pakistan tried once more to infiltrate Indian-controlled areas. This time, they were disguised as Kashmiri militants, which they would later blame for starting the conflict. Pakistan was trying to push India away from Kargil, sever a link between KAshmir and the mountainous Ladakh and give Pakistan the upper hand in negotiating a final deal over Kashmir.
Except no one believed the Pakistanis were militants. They were discovered by sheep herders, who reported them to the Indian Army. When the Indians sent a patrol, the Pakistanis captured and killed them. Things escalated from there, but long story short: India regained all of Kargil within two months, and Pakistan economy was on the verge of collapse.
Maybe it’s not always Kashmir. This time the war was over East Pakistan, which is today Bangladesh because of this war. The Bengalis in East Pakistan were fighting for their independence from the rest of Pakistan, but the Pakistanis responded with brutal repression. When it became clear that India might intervene militarily, Pakistan launched a pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases.
India responded with a massive aerial campaign, a full-on invasion of Pakistan and East Pakistan and a naval campaign that sank, burned, or captured half of Pakistan’s navy. The Indians took 93,000 Pakistani troops prisoner and stripped Pakistan of half its population. It also lost East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh – all this happened in under two weeks.
Pakistan isn’t terrible at fighting wars, it’s just terrible at fighting wars against India. Since India has had nuclear weapons since 1974, it has promised a “no first use” against any power, including Pakistan. Pakistan’s policy, since it has had nuclear weapons since 1998, is to only use a first strike if it can’t stop an invasion.
During the 1971 war, Pakistan would not have been able to stop an Indian invasion of any territory under its control. In this scenario (which could very well happen again), Pakistan might have nuked India, who would have nuked Pakistan in retaliation. An estimated two billion people would die in such an exchange, so maybe they should figure out a way to get along.