In the contemporary world, a highly volatile South Asia often remains in the limelight of world politics. Pakistan and India are the two archrivals located in this part of the world. However, ever since their inception, a sense of mistrust between both countries has prevailed as their relations are marred by tense situations, blame games and covert intelligence operations leading to the instances of cross-border firing which may instigate a fully fledged war — both countries have already fought four wars. The urgency for peace has grown more ever since the nuclearisation of South Asia, where Pakistan and India became nuclear powers. Hence, this region is in dire need of serious efforts from both sides to undertake CBMs in true spirit.
The term confidence building measures (CBMs) has assumed greater importance in the study of international politics. In a conflict-ridden world where discontent against the use of lethal, chemical and nuclear weapons is always growing, the CBMs are the only alternative which the sovereign nation-states like India and Pakistan can use to achieve peace and stability. These can be very useful also in lessening tensions, avoiding conflicts and even cultivating cooperation and peace between both these antagonist states. Even though no dramatic results out of those are expected, at least, CBMs can help in building a requisite level of trust among them for a more peaceful region and avoidance of explosive situations like Kargil when both were at the brink of a nuclear war.
Despite the history of protracted conflict and bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan in which the peace process suffered the most, Pakistan and India have agreed upon and signed myriad CBMs since independence. In fact, the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, acceptance of the Rann of Kutch Tribunal Award in 1966, the Salal Dam Agreement in 1978, No-Attack Agreement on each other’s nuclear installations and facilities in 1988 are some early CBMs. Both countries also initiated a number of steps to improve their relationship through communication links and for that matter they launched bus and train services. Also, sports have been used as a means of diplomacy to break the barriers between the two nations.
In several conflict-ridden situations, scholars and political scientists use words like “confidence and security building measures” (CSBMs), “community building measures”, “mutual reassurance measures” (MRMs), “peace building measures”, “conflict avoidance measures” so on and so forth to describe the efforts aimed at improving the situation. However, the usage of terminology differs from author to author, but undoubtedly the objective of the whole idea is to justify the confidence-building process among adversarial sovereign nation-states and bring back peace and stability in the world.
It is important to mention here that besides military and political problems, nearly two-third nation-states are suffering also from acute socioeconomic problems where per capita income in most countries hovers around $1-2 a day. Moreover, a huge majority of states do not perform very well on indicators of human development index (HDI). Regrettably, in the Human Development Report 2014, India and Pakistan have been put at dismal positions of 135 and 146 respectively, whereas other smaller South Asian states like Sri Lanka and Maldives have earned better position — 73 and 103 respectively.
Although the world has made substantial progress in various fields including science and information technology, in India and Pakistan, a large number of people are still vulnerable to socioeconomic insecurity. While lack of proper physical infrastructure, insufficient employment opportunities for youth, inadequate health facilities, non-provision of compulsory and free elementary education facilities, child labour, etc., are some of the real socioeconomic challenges before them, they are busy in producing and acquiring nuclear weapons which pose serious challenges to the very existence of human civilisation.
In this context, it is to be noted that the CBMs have served as tension-reduction measures in the Indo-Pak case many a time in the past. One such example is the Indus Waters Treaty, which was signed on September 19, 1960 by Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani President Ayub Khan, has been working successfully in spite of phases of very tense situation.
Although there are apprehensions in Pakistan that in case of any eventuality, the Treaty might be scrapped, yet the IWT has been in operation despite the wars of 1965, 1971 as well as Kargil war and Mumbai attacks.
In the field of military confidence-building, a notable agreement is the “India-Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement” of 1988 which entered into force on January 1, 1991. The India-Pakistan No-Attack Agreement is a unique bilateral agreement that expands, in a sense, the scope of Articles 56 and 15 of the first and second protocols to the Geneva Convention. Under this agreement, both countries exchange the lists of their nuclear establishments on January 1 every year. Here it is worth-mentioning that even in the war-like situations between both countries, they have exchanged the lists of nuclear installations sincerely and adhered to the rules of the agreement. Besides this, prevention of each other’s airspace violation in 1991, and prohibition of chemical weapons in 1992 are some of the military CBMs existing between them.
The composite dialogue, which was re-initiated from February 2004, saw both India and Pakistan discussing Kashmir, nuclear confidence-building measures, Siachen, Tulbul navigation/Wular Barrage, Sir Creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, trade and commercial contact, people-to-people contacts, friendly exchanges in various fields, etc. Under this framework, in October 2005, India and Pakistan reached an agreement that requires either party to inform the other 72 hours in advance before testing ballistic missiles within a 40-km radius of the Line of Control.
In addition to the already existing hotlines at the level of Prime Ministers and Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs), a hotline was established between Foreign Secretaries of both the countries. In order to bring the peoples of the two countries closer to each other, the bus service was resumed between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad in 2005. Later, the holy places of India and Pakistan were linked through different means of communication, especially by bus and train. For quicker communication, the weekly air service was also doubled.
Cricket, which is regarded as a powerful means of track-II diplomacy was played regularly between 2004 and 2008.
Despite this silver-lining, the whole gamut of the CBM process came to a standstill after the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008. Of course, the leadership of both the countries expressed their willingness to start the dialogue at different regional and international forums many a time since November 2008, no breakthrough has been achieved yet.
In conclusion one can say that even though there are a number of issues that remain unresolved between India and Pakistan, the dialogue process should be resumed in the given political circumstances with the presence of nuclear deterrence in South Asia.
Although bogged down in a hostile and opposing position against each other at the moment under some domestic, regional and international compulsions, the long-term interest of both countries lies squarely in mutual respect and cooperation and as the diktats of the time have starting unfolding this reality to both of them, one sees a lot of hope for a more forceful resurgence of peace process and effective, meaningful and inclusive CBMs with a potential to change the course of history in the region.
What are CBMs?
Confidence Building Measures or CBMs are steps agreed upon and taken between two or more parties to build an atmosphere of trust and confidence. These actions lead to reduce tensions and lessen miscalculations amongst the parties. CBMs are important segment of preventive diplomacy as they lessen the level of hostility and mistrust between the parties making their behaviour more predictable. CBMs, as the term clearly reflects, are the measures adopted by opposing parties to lessen the hostility and to limit the escalation. Though at the earlier stage, these are small steps towards preventing miscalculations and miscommunications, but with the passage of time CBMs can contribute a lot in the process of peace building.
Pakistan-India bilateral relations are marred by problems that are attributed to historical, civilizational, territorial, governance and diplomatic differences which are responsible for converting South Asia into the most ‘complex, volatile and politically explosive region, the most enigmatic and baffling in the world’. If the two countries were able to achieve endurable or non-interference model of bilateralism, this region would have progressed greatly, each side reaping its benefits.