In March 1940, a resolution was passed at the annual session of the All India Muslim League, held in Lahore. This famous resolution called for the establishment of a separate homeland for Muslims of India. Following the Second World War, Britain was shedding its colonies because of monetary burden and India—the Jewel in the British Crown—had to be abandoned. In August 1947, India and Pakistan became two independent countries. Ever since the separation, the relations between the two countries have remained fraught, culminating in four major wars and numerous skirmishes. One of the major points of conflict between the two countries was the fate of former ‘Princely States’ that were supposed to join either India or Pakistan. Kashmir was the one of the largest princely states and conflict over this state evolved into a full-scale war in 1947-48.

In the first decade of existence, India wholeheartedly pursued the policy of non-alignment while Pakistan vied for American attention by creating a false impression of a communist threat emanating from India. It was during the first decade that a landmark settlement i.e. Indus Waters Treaty was signed between Pakistan and India. Mediated by the World Bank, the Indus Waters Treaty has been hailed as a historic achievement between adversarial nations, which has stood the test of time. A recent editorial in a leading English-daily branded the Treaty as ‘anachronistic’ while accusing India of stealing water from Pakistan. Such rhetoric has been used by right-wing elements in Pakistan, which showcases the lack of research and understanding of nuances by the accusing parties. Experts believe that there is no imminent danger of ‘Water Wars’ as prophesized by the concerned quarters.

In 1965, Kashmir became the flashpoint for another war between the two neighbors after a disastrous campaign codenamed “Operation Gibraltar”. In 1999, a similarly adventurous (and mindless) campaign was launched in the Kargil area. Both these stunts ended in miserable defeat for Pakistan’s military. Pakistan’s ‘India Policy’ has been controlled by the military since our independence. In India’s case, bureaucracy and diplomats have controlled the foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan. Both sides have displayed intransigence and belligerent attitudes towards each other, while sticking to their respective agendas. A brief lull in the hostilities was witnessed in 1989, 1999 and 2004-07 but a sustainable peace deal was not finalized. After the failure of traditional means of diplomacy, track-II diplomacy was tried between the two neighbors. Unfortunately, Pakistan was usually represented by retired generals while India’s side was represented by battle-hardened diplomats. As a result, the impasse hasn’t been resolved over the years.

India’s priorities have evolved from being Pakistan-centric to China-centric over time but the same hasn’t happened in Pakistan. Pakistan’s security establishment (or some elements in it) has nurtured anti-India sentiments in the general populace and within the armed forces. One of the major blunders committed by the Establishment was to prop up proxies, to be used as the ‘first line of defense’ against India. Those proxies were a by-product of the Afghan war and were diverted to Kashmir in the 1990s. After a sustained push-back by Indian armed forces deployed in Kashmir, and international pressure following 9/11, some of the proxies were withdrawn and redeployed in Pakistan.

Evidence from the last decade points to the futility of this idea; the proxies have outgrown their benefactors. According to a recent book by Arif Jamal, Lashkar-e-Taiba (or Jamat ud Dawa) has 300,000 to 500,000 active members under arms. The author pointed out that “Currently, they are using Pakistan as a springboard to carry out Jihadist operations in India and Afghanistan. But sooner or Later, the LeT and Pakistani state will have a falling out for one reason or the other.”

The current falling out between the two countries resulting in the breakdown of talks at the foreign secretary level, and the role of Pakistan’s military in ‘straightening out’ the political mess are linked to India’s designs on Kashmir. The success of BJP’s Narendra Modi and his appointment of a hawk as national security advisor paved the way for a rough ride. Indian policymakers have decided to integrate Kashmir in mainland India by revoking their special status (article 370 of Indian constitution) and will go to any lengths to achieve this goal. Local Assembly elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir later this year and BJP hopes to capture power in the state. BJP’s 2014 manifesto promised the abrogation of Article 370 and the party won three out of six Lok Sabha seats from Jammu and Kashmir. Their next goal is to achieve a simple majority (at least 44 out of 87 seats) in the local elections, paving the way for fulfilling their promise. The recent skirmishes in Jora Farm area of Jammu are indicative of a tough stance taken by the Indian military establishment.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government sought better relations with India—stepping on Pakistan army’s traditional turf—thus upsetting the military’s top brass. Mr. Sharif’s India policy, coupled with the Musharraf trial and reluctance to own Operation Zarb-e-Azab triggered the alarms, resulting in ‘Azaadi’ and ‘Inquilab’ marches. Following a fortnight of low-quality soap opera, the ‘powers that be’ have readjusted the power dynamics in their favor. The current maneuvering by the establishment is a ploy to gain an upper hand in deciding the country’s Afghanistan policy after withdrawal by NATO forces by the end of 2014.

Instead of promoting hatred against each other, Pakistan and India should focus on building bridges, as we share a common language, heritage and culture. In purely economic terms, Pakistan needs access to Indian markets and investments from across the border. The terrible visa regime and monitoring of visitors from either country needs to be sorted out earnestly for things to improve. We have tried wars and military means for the last 67 years, it is time for a diplomatic and peaceful approach.

    The writer is a freelance columnist.