Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts

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Since the partition of British India in 1947 and creation of modern states of India and Pakistan, the two South Asian countries have been involved in four wars, including one undeclared war, and many border skirmishes and military stand-offs.

The Kashmir issue has been the main cause, whether direct or indirect, of all major conflicts between the two countries with the exception of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 where conflict originated due to turmoil in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).


Four nations (India, Pakistan, Dominion of Ceylon and Union of Burma) that gained independence in 1947 and 1948

The Partition of British India came about in the aftermath of World War II, when both Great Britain and British India were dealing with the economic stresses caused by the war and its demobilisation.[1] It was the intention of those who wished for a Muslim state to come from British India to have a clean partition between independent and equal "Pakistan" and "Hindustan" once independence came.[2]

The partition itself, according to leading politicians such as Mohammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the All India Muslim League, and Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian National Congress, should have resulted in peaceful relations. As the Hindu and Muslim populations were scattered unevenly in the whole country, the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947 was not possible along religious lines. Nearly one third of the Muslim population of British India remained in India.[3] Inter-communal violence between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims resulted in between 500,000 and 1 million casualties.[1]:6

Princely-ruled territories, such as Kashmir and Hyderabad, were also involved in the Partition. Rulers of these territories had the choice of joining India or Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan laid claim on Kashmir and thus it became the main point of conflict.[1]:8[4] The ruler of Kashmir, which had a Muslim majority population, joined India by signing the Instrument of Accession.[4]


Refugees awaiting evacuation by IAF Dakota on Poonch Airstrip, December 1947.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1947

Indian soldiers during the 1947–1948 war.

The war, also called the First Kashmir War, started in October 1947 when Pakistan feared that the Maharaja of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu would accede to India. Following partition, states were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. Jammu and Kashmir, the largest of the princely states, had a predominantly Muslim population ruled by the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh. Tribal forces with support from the army of Pakistan attacked and occupied parts of the princely state forcing the Maharaja to sign the Instrument of Accession of the princely state to the Dominion of India to receive Indian military aid. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 on 22 April 1948. The fronts solidified gradually along what came to be known as the Line of Control. A formal cease-fire was declared at 23:59 on the night of 1 January 1949.[5]:379 India gained control of about two-thirds of the state including (Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh) whereas Pakistan gained roughly a third of Kashmir (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan),[6][7][8][9]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

This war started following Pakistan's Operation Gibraltar, which was designed to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against rule by India. India retaliated by launching a full-scale military attack on West Pakistan. The seventeen-day war caused thousands of casualties on both sides and witnessed the largest engagement of armored vehicles and the largest tank battle since World War II.[10][11] The hostilities between the two countries ended after a ceasefire was declared following diplomatic intervention by the Soviet Union and USA and the subsequent issuance of the Tashkent Declaration.[12] Both India and Pakistan claimed victory.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi, the commander of Pakistan Eastern Command, signing the instrument of surrender in Dhaka on 16 Dec 1971, in the presence of India's Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora.
Pakistan's PNS Ghazi, the Pakistani submarine which sank off during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War under mysterious circumstances[21] on the Visakhapatnam coast.

This war was unique in the way that it did not involve the issue of Kashmir, but was rather precipitated by the crisis created by the political battle brewing in erstwhile East Pakistan between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Leader of East Pakistan, and Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leaders of West Pakistan. This would culminate in the declaration of Independence of Bangladesh from the state system of Pakistan. Following Operation Searchlight and the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities, about 10 million Bengalis in East Pakistan took refuge in neighbouring India.[22] India intervened in the ongoing Bangladesh liberation movement.[23][24] After a large scale pre-emptive strike by Pakistan, full-scale hostilities between the two countries commenced.

Pakistan attacked at several places along India's western border with Pakistan, but the Indian Army successfully held their positions. The Indian Army quickly responded to the Pakistan Army's movements in the west and made some initial gains, including capturing around 5,795 square miles (15,010 km2)[25][26][27] of Pakistan territory (land gained by India in Pakistani Kashmir, Pakistani Punjab and Sindh sectors but gifted it back to Pakistan in the Simla Agreement of 1972, as a gesture of goodwill). Within two weeks of intense fighting, Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered to the joint command of Indian and Bangladeshi forces following which the People's Republic of Bangladesh was created.[28] This war saw the highest number of casualties in any of the India-Pakistan conflicts, as well as the largest number of prisoners of war since the Second World War after the surrender of more than 90,000 Pakistani military and civilians.[29] In the words of one Pakistani author, "Pakistan lost half its navy, a quarter of its air force and a third of its army".[30]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1999

Commonly known as the Kargil War, this conflict between the two countries was mostly limited. During early 1999, Pakistani troops infiltrated across the Line of Control (LoC) and occupied Indian territory mostly in the Kargil district. India responded by launching a major military and diplomatic offensive to drive out the Pakistani infiltrators.[31] Two months into the conflict, Indian troops had slowly retaken most of the ridges that were encroached by the infiltrators.[32][33] according to official count, an estimated 75%–80% of the intruded area and nearly all high ground was back under Indian control.[34] Fearing large-scale escalation in military conflict, the international community, led by the United States, increased diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to withdraw forces from remaining Indian territory.[31][35] Faced with the possibility of international isolation, the already fragile Pakistani economy was weakened further.[36][37] The morale of Pakistani forces after the withdrawal declined as many units of the Northern Light Infantry suffered heavy casualties.[38][39] The government refused to accept the dead bodies of many officers,[40][41] an issue that provoked outrage and protests in the Northern Areas.[42][43] Pakistan initially did not acknowledge many of its casualties, but Nawaz Sharif later said that over 4,000 Pakistani troops were killed in the operation and that Pakistan had lost the conflict.[44][45] By the end of July 1999, organized hostilities in the Kargil district had ceased.[35]

Other armed engagements

Apart from the aforementioned wars, there have been skirmishes between the two nations from time to time. Some have bordered on all-out war, while others were limited in scope. The countries were expected to fight each other in 1955 after warlike posturing on both sides, but full-scale war did not break out.[12]

Standing armed conflicts

Past skirmishes and standoffs

  • Indian integration of Junagadh: The princely state of Junagadh, which had a Hindu majority and a Muslim ruler acceded to Pakistan on 15 September 1947, claiming a connection by sea. Pakistan's acceptance of the Instrument of Accession was seen as a strategy to get a plebiscite held in Kashmir which had a Muslim majority and a Hindu ruler. Following communal tensions Indian military entered the territory which was protested by Pakistan as a violation of International law. Later a plebiscite was held and the accession was reversed for the state to join India.[52][53][54][55]

In 2016, An Indian army official claimed that over 4,500 Indian soldier have been killed in ceasefire violation related incidents since 2001.[65]


Nuclear-arms race

The nuclear conflict between both countries is passive strategic nature with nuclear doctrine of Pakistan stating a first strike policy, although the strike would only be initiated if and only if, the Pakistan Armed Forces are unable to halt an invasion (as for example in 1971 war) or a nuclear strike is launched against Pakistan,[citation needed] whereas India has a declared policy of no first use.

  • Pokhran-I (Smiling Buddha): On 18 May 1974 India detonated an 8-kiloton[73] nuclear device at Pokhran Test Range, becoming the first nation to become nuclear capable outside the five permanent members of United Nations Security Council as well as dragging Pakistan along with it into a nuclear arms race[74] with the Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto swearing to reciprocate India quoting "His countrymen would prefer having a nuclear bomb even if they have to eat grass".[75] The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Munir Ahmed Khan said that the test would force Pakistan to test its own nuclear bomb.[76]
  • Kirana-I: In 1980s a series of 24 different cold tests were conducted by Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission led by chairman Munir Ahmad Khan under extreme secrecy.[77] The tunnels at Kirana Hills, Sargodha, are reported to have been bored after the Chagai nuclear test sites, it is widely believed that the tunnels were constructed sometime between 1979 and 1983. As in Chagai, the tunnels at Kirana Hills had been bored and then sealed and this task was also undertaken by PAEC's DTD.[77] Later due to excessive US intelligence and satellite focus on the Kirana Hills site,[citation needed] it was abandoned and nuclear weapons testing was shifted to the Kala Chitta Range.
  • Pokhran-II (Operation Shakti): On 11 May 1998 India detonated another 5 nuclear devices at Pokhran Test Range. With jubilation and large scale approval from the Indian society came International sanctions as a reaction to this test. The most vehement reaction of all coming from Pakistan. Great ire was raised in Pakistan, which issued a severe statement claiming that India was instigating a nuclear arms race in the region. Pakistan vowed to match India's nuclear capability with statements like: "We are in a headlong arms race on the subcontinent".[78][79]
  • Chagai-I: (Youm-e-Takbir) Within half a month of Pokhran-II, on 28 May 1998 Pakistan detonated 5 nuclear devices to reciprocate India in the nuclear arms race. Pakistani public, like the Indian, reacted with a celebration and heightened sense of nationalism for responding to India in kind and becoming the only Muslim nuclear power. The day was later given the title Youm-e-Takbir to further proclaim such.[80][81]
  • Chagai-II: Two days later, on 30 May 1998, Pakistan detonated a 6th nuclear device completing its own series of underground tests with this being the last test the two nations have carried out to date.[81][82]

Annual celebrations

Involvement of other nations

  •  Soviet Union:
    • The USSR remained neutral during the 1965 war[86] and played a pivotal role in negotiating the peace agreement between India and Pakistan.[87]
    • The Soviet Union provided diplomatic and military assistance to India during the 1971 war. In response to the US and UK's deployment of the USS Enterprise and the HMS Eagle aircraft carriers, Moscow sent nuclear submarines and warships with anti-ship missiles in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, respectively.[88][89][90]
  •  United States:
    • The US had not given any military aid to Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.[91]
    • The United States provided diplomatic and military support to Pakistan during the 1971 war by sending the USS Enterprise into the Indian Ocean.[92][93][94]
    • The United States did not support Pakistan during the Kargil War, and successfully pressured the Pakistani government to end hostilities.[31][95][96]
  •  China:
    • China had helped Pakistan in various wars with diplomatic support.[13][97][98]
  •  Russia:
    • Russia maintained a non-belligerent policy for both sides. Russia helped negotiate a peace in 2001–02 and helped divert the 2008 crisis.[99][100]

In popular culture

These wars have provided source material for both Indian and Pakistani film and television dramatists, who have adapted events of the war for the purposes of drama and to please target audiences in their nations.

Indian films

Pakistani films

Pakistani miniseries and dramas

See also


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  • David R. Higgins (20 January 2016), M48 Patton vs Centurion: Indo-Pakistan War 1965, Osprey Publishing, p. 103, ISBN 978-14-7281-094-6 
  • Rachna Bisht (15 August 2015), 1965: Stories from the Second Indo-Pakistan War, Penguin UK, p. 60, ISBN 978-93-5214-129-6 

External links

  • Nuclear Proliferation in India and Pakistan from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
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