India and Pakistan are two neighbouring countries who despite sharing historical, cultural and ethnic ties have always been in continuous conflict with each other. Several efforts have been made to improve the bilateral ties, that have been successful in de-escalating tensions only to a certain extent.
Issues between India and Pakistan
- Wars and Conflicts- Since independence in 1947, both the countries have fought three major wars (1947, 1965, 1971), one undeclared war (1998-99) and several military standoffs.
- Kashmir issue- it is the major bone of contention between the two countries. Both of them lay claim over the region and it has also been the subject of wars between them. The recent abrogation of Art 370 which gave special status to Kashmir also raised issues with Pakistan.
- Sir Creek Dispute- it is a 96 km long estuary located in the Rann of Kutchh that lies between Gujarat (India) and Sindh (Pakistan). The dispute is due to the interpretation of the maritime boundary line. Pakistan claims the entire Sir Creek as per the 1914 agreement between the Government of Sindh and Rulers of Kutch while India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as per a 1925 map.
- Cross Border Terrorism- this problem has persisted since independence and has increased in the recent times. Eg- 2008 Mumbai attack, 2016 Uri attack, 2019 Pulwama attack and many more. These were carried out by terrorist organisations operating in Pakistan.
As India enjoys the title of a rising global power, it seeks to ensure political stability and economic development, both nationally and within its region which includes Pakistan too. The continued deterioration of relations between the two countries has highlighted the need for a comprehensive and sustainable conflict resolution mechanism. One such mechanism can be leveraging India’s soft power.
Use of Soft Power in India Pakistan relations
- Cultural diplomacy- use of cultural diplomacy based on the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity to strengthen relationships, enhance socio- cultural cooperation or promote the national interest. Eg- urdu poetry, ghazals, Bollywood movies, Kartarpur Corridor, etc.
- Cricket Diplomacy- using Cricket as a strategic diplomatic political tool for transcending the ethnic and social divide while dispelling historical stereotypes and age-old prejudices. It will further build people to people relations between the two countries.
- Economic Diplomacy- Economic interdependence through bilateral trade can ease out the tensions at the border arising out of unemployment, poverty and low living conditions, as bilateral trade brings more employment opportunities and prosperity in the region.
- Hydropower- India can cooperate with Pakistan on generation of hydropower. The practice of hydro diplomacy is hinged on the idea that conflicts over water are irrational in terms of strategic and economic interests and ineffective in achieving hydrological development.
Nonetheless, any further cooperation with Pakistan can only occur when both the countries aspire for it. This includes actions by Pakistan on activities against India in its soil. In order to strengthen the bilateral engagements between India and Pakistan, the need of the hour is to employ a perfect balance of soft and hard power diplomacy coupled with International diplomacy.