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India - Pakistan Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) & Talks

A brief summary of recent Indo-Pak CBM accords follows:

Military Hotlines:
Following the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, a dedicated communication link, or “hotline,” between the Pakistani and Indian directors general of military operations (DGMOs) was established. In December 1990, India and Pakistan agreed to re-establish the DGMO hotline and to use it on a weekly basis, if only to exchange routine information. At the February 1999 Lahore Summit, India and Pakistan agreed review all existing communication links with a view to upgrade and approve the DGMO and other hotlines.

The DGMO hotline has been used intermittently. However, during periods of tension, important information has not been communicated over the hotline in a timely fashion. During a serious regional crisis in 1987, the DGMO hotline was not used nor was the hotline used during another major crisis in Kashmir in the spring of 1990. Use during the Kargil conflict was sporadic and unreliable. The DGMO hotline is used once a week at an assigned day and time. Some skirmishes and stand-offs have been diffused by contact over this hotline.

Hotline between Prime Ministers:
The first hotline was installed in 1989 by Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi. In November 1990, Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif re-established the hotline to facilitate direct communication. In May 1997, Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and Sharif pledged to reinstate the hotline.

Nawaz Sharif used the hotline to express his interest in further developing bilateral ties with Chandra Shekhar. Prime Ministers Sharif and Gujral spoke on the eve of the revived Foreign Secretary talks in June 1997 to reaffirm their commitment to the dialogue process. They also used the hotline during a period of particularly severe skirmishes and heavy artillery fire along the Line of Control (loc) in Kashmir in October 1997, and during the 1999 conflict over Kargil. Nonetheless, the repeated re-establishment of the Prime Ministers’ hotline suggests that its use has been intermittent, at best.

Declarations on Non-Use of Force, Bilateral Resolution of Differences:
The 1966 Tashkent Declaration, facilitated by the Soviet Union, formally concluded the 1965 Indo-Pak war. It stipulated that “relations between India and Pakistan shall be based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the other.” The 1972 Simla Accord which followed the 1971 Indo-Pak war obliges both countries to renounce the use of force as a means of settling outstanding disputes. In addition, both sides agreed to resolve their disputes in bilateral fora.

Implementation has been weak. Many in South Asia believe that Indian and Pakistani intelligence services have been actively involved in cross-border acts of terror. Neither the Simla Accord’s letter nor spirit has been implemented. India argues that Pakistan, by seeking third-party mediation of this dispute, is acting contrary to the Simla Accord. The 1999 conflict on the LoC over the Kargil region has further damaged the credibility of declarations renouncing the use of force.

Military Exercises:
An Agreement on Prior Notification of Military Exercises was completed in April 1991. Notification is required for exercises comprising two or more divisions in specified locations. Near the loc, notification is required for any exercises involving division level or above. Troop maneuvers directed toward the international border are proscribed. Exercises at the corps level must be held forty-five kilometers away from the border. At the division level, exercises must be held twenty-five kilometers away from the border. No military activity is permitted within five kilometers of the border.

This agreement has mostly been honored. Most troop movements of concern, such as those involving Special Forces, would fall outside the purview of this agreement. On some occasions, division-level exercises have not been pre-notified.

Non-intrusion of Air Space :
An Agreement on the Prevention of the Violation of Airspace, signed in April 1991, and entered into force in August 1992, stipulates that combat aircraft are not to fly within ten kilometers of foreign airspace. Unarmed transport and logistics aircraft are permitted up to 1,000 meters from the border; flights within this range for supply or rescue missions are permitted if advance notice is given.

There are periodic claims by both countries that the airspace agreement has been violated. In the Siachen Glacier region, where rules of engagement are more aggressive, helicopters have been shot down.

Non-Attack of Nuclear Facilities:
An Agreement on the Non-attack of Nuclear Facilities was signed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 1988. It was ratified by both countries and implemented in January 1992. The agreement requires an annual exchange of lists detailing the location of all nuclear-related facilities in each country. The measure further pledges both sides not to attack listed facilities.

Though lists of nuclear facilities have been exchanged each year, the definition of nuclear facilities to be declared is unclear. When lists were first exchanged in 1992, each side reportedly left off one facility.

Bilateral Accord on Chemical Weapons:
A Joint Declaration on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was concluded in August 1992. Both countries agreed not to develop, produce, acquire, or use chemical weapons.

When the government of India joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), it declared having chemical stocks as well as production and storage facilities for the express purpose of dealing “with any situation arising out of possible use of chemical warfare against India.” Pakistan did not declare any chemical stocks, production, or storage facilities when it joined the CWC. Pakistan’s declarations have been met with skepticism.

Non-Harassment of Diplomatic Personnel:
In November 1990 the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Secretaries worked out a code of conduct to protect diplomatic personnel, guaranteeing them freedom from harassment.

This code has often been violated in both letter and spirit. Pakistani authorities did not protect Indian officials and property in Karachi after the 1992 destruction of the Babri Masjid in India. Diplomatic personnel are often harassed by intelligence services in both countries, and reciprocal expulsions of diplomats occur periodically. In the wake of the Indian nuclear tests in May 1998, an Indian diplomat in Islamabad was badly beaten by a Pakistani security guard.

The track record of CBM implementation in South Asia is spotty, at best. Both India and Pakistan assert that trust is lacking and is the key ingredient to improved relations, but neither country has chosen to generate trust through CBMs voluntarily negotiated. Now that nuclear dangers and regional instabilities have grown, India and Pakistan might do well to implement existing CBMs properly. New nuclear risk reductions measures might also be considered in bilateral negotiations.

In a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries at the Lahore Summit in 1999, both countries agreed to pursue a list of confidence-building measures, which included measures aimed specifically at nuclear risk reduction. While the Kargil conflict has since stymied any progress on these issues, the measures enumerated in the Memorandum indicate common ground between India and Pakistan and highlight areas where future agreements may be possible.


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