Qunfayakoon

Borders

In South Asia on 15. May 2010 at 21:54

Countries gaining independence during the last century from their colonial masters inherited unnatural borderlines cutting over geographical and ethnic lines. The result of this was another inheritance in the form of unresolved conflicts and territorial disputes. Pakistan is such a country with conflicts on all of its borders and territories since its independence from the British Crown.

The creation of Pakistan in 1947 was a special incident in the history of nationhood. The country was carved out from British India on the basis of religion. The many provinces were in pre partition time ordered to vote either for a union with India or a future state of Pakistan. In addition the 600 princely states were given the choice of uniting either of the two options. The Congress party on its side with its leadership and the All India Muslim League with its leadership on the other side campaigned in the provinces and tried to flatter the princely rulers in order to win as much territory as possible in the future partition. In areas with a mixed Muslim and Hindu population the British administration decided to divide the province so each state gets its share according to the religion of the population. The example of Punjab and Bengal is most visible. Punjab was divided by a commission led by Sir Radcliffe and the borderline is known as Radcliffe awars. The Bengal province on its hand were also divided but in the northern portions of this province there still is several hundred enclaves and exclaves which is a source for dispute between the sovereign states of Bangladesh and India.

So it happened. The partition was a reality on the night between 14th and 15th of August 1947. Pakistan were formed by the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, North-West-Frontier-Province (today known as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) and East Bengal (which in 1970 became a independent Republic of Bangladesh), thirteen princely states. In addition the princely state of Hyderabad (on the size of Germany) and Junagadh were for some months parts of Pakistan. Due to the location of Hyderabad in central India as a enclave and with a majority of Hindu population with a Muslim ruler the Indian government annexed the state. The same case was with Junagadh. Pakistan made likewise a claim on Kashmir province with the argument of the state of being a Muslim majority with a Hindu leader. Tribal rebels and paramilitary forces attacked the princely state and launched the first war between India and Pakistan. The result was Pakistan’s annex of one third of Kashmiri territory. Till this day three wars has been fought over this area, also known as the Kashmir conflict.

At first the dispute of the Radcliffe line is still uncertain. The line was drawn but left several districts with Muslim majority on the Indian side. Initially those Hindus and Sikhs who were left on the Pakistani side of the border had to flee to India and vice versa. With the Radcliffe line several more Muslims had to abandon their homes. In total 14,5 million people had to flee their homes. The mass migration resulted in violence where it is estimated a death toll in between 500.000 to 1 million. The districts of Gurdaspur and Pathankot although fell in Indian hands and the Punjab border was sealed as the populations exchanged.

Kashmir on the other hand is still a disputed territory. As of today Pakistan has control over a area of Kashmir known as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Both of these areas are constitutionally autonomous but the state of Pakistan is informally in total control of it. On the other side of the border India is in control of the Muslim dominant Kashmir valley, Hindu dominant Dogra division and Buddhist dominant Ladakh division. China came on the ground with annexing some portions of north eastern Kashmir known as Aksai Chin. It also traded a northern area with of Kashmir with Pakistan known as Shaksgam valley in 1963. Pakistan lays claim on the whole of Kashmir, as does India. China claims the areas under its control as of today. The border in between India and Pakistan in Kashmir is a ceasefire line from the 1948 war and is known as Line of Control (LOC). Musharraf administration tried in its period to make this a permanent border to solve the conflict, something which was acceptable for the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh. It is believed that a future resolve of this conflict will be a permanent border on what is today LOC. But the LOC is drawn from north western tip of Pakistani Punjab province till the Siachen glacier. The area from Siachen glacier and upto the Chinese border on the other hand is still in dispute. The ceasefire line in this area if formally known as Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) but Pakistani claim is beyond the line. It is believed that a escalation of a future conflict can come from this site.

On the western border between Afghanistan and Pakistan the whole border is disputed by the Afghan government. Some Pakhtun nationalists in Pakistan and Afghanistan government claim the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as a part of Afghanistan. This is the province which is bordering to Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which is also claimed by Afghanistan and which is the battle theatre between Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani Army. During the 90s the Bhutto and Sharif governments partly supported Afghan Taliban in order to secure KP province from infiltration and Afghani claim. With the new Afghan administration the old claim once again came to the surface. But there are not any signals from either side to engage in conflict over this claim. Afghanistan has a major task to get rid of Taliban and build up the nation which has been in anarchy since 1979. Thereby, even though the border is disputed, it is expected that the current position will be a political reality.

Pakistan’s border with Iran is another source of conflict. The border is permanent and is not disputed. But the provinces on both sides of the border are known as Baluchistan in Pakistan and Baluchistan-Sistan in Iran. Both areas have a tribal society of baluchi people of Sunni Muslim origin. Iran being Shia majority state struggles with the insurgency from baluchis based in Afghanistan and Pakistan to carve out a independent Baluchi state. Likewise is the case between Pakistan and the baluch rebels. Since independence the baluchi people have been neglected and been under both civilian and military marshal law for most of the time. Merely investing in coastal highways or seaports will not ease the situation, Pakista needs to put the peoples grievance on agenda.

In the southern province of Sindh and the neighbouring Indian state of Gujarat there is another border dispute. The tussle is over a marshy area between the two states and the subsequent sea boundary called the Sir Creek. The war of 1965 against India had its casus bell from a small conflict started in this area which later escalated to a full scale war across the Kashmiri and Punjabi border. However in 1968 the Wilson government in UK managed to bring both the combatants on table to resolve this case. The land area itself is not of importance, what matters is at which point the border will be finalised to the shore, at that point the border at sea will go 200 nautic miles as is the international custom also known as Exclusive economic zone. In other words, a small change of border on land will cause a major change of area at sea. It is especially relevant because it has been proven oil and gas fields. A guidance to resolve this matter could be the recent deal between the Norwegian and the Russian states. Both states agreed on a visit of Russian president in Oslo 27th April to divide the disputed sea territory in order to end a over 40 year old conflict. Both states could have used international court tribunals or actors, but decided to resolve it by dialogue, deals and goodwill over the years. Now this area is finally open for research for petroleum fields which are expected to be of great size.

In summary, Pakistan’s major conflict outside its borders lies with India. This dispute can only be solved by agreeing to the status quo. The major subject for the three wars fought with India is Kashmir, by agreeing to a permanent border both countries will not only reduce the cost on defence, it will also encourage tourism and trade to Kashmir which will benefit both states. It is expected that both the governments of Pakistan and India knows the value of trade and prosperity. There is profit in commercial trailers crossing border, while only expenses when armed vehicles do the same.

 

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