India, Pakistan relations likely to remain thorny, say experts
2021 started with surprise announcement of cease-fire on disputed Kashmir border, but ended in no major breakthrough
When India and Pakistan in a surprise announcement early this year agreed to a cease-fire along the disputed Kashmir border, it was believed that the months ahead would see a thaw in the relations between the two South Asian nuclear-armed neighbors.
But as the year comes to an end, there has been no major breakthrough.
Relations between India and Pakistan plummeted to a new low after August 2019, when India scrapped the longstanding special status of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting Islamabad to downgrade its diplomatic ties with New Delhi.
"Bilateral relations are likely going to stay the same in 2022 and may further get complicated because of the upcoming domestic political events in both countries such as the 2023 general elections in Pakistan and state polls in India," said Sarral Sharma, a New Delhi-based security analyst.
Sharma, who has also served in the National Security Council Secretariat which advises the prime minister on key issues, told Anadolu Agency that the status quo would remain.
"Terrorism and Kashmir issue will continue to remain the bone of contention. The status quo should likely remain intact unless an untoward incident, like a big terror attack in India, will lead to further complications in the ties," he said.
Islamabad has been maintaining the normalization of ties with New Delhi is linked to a review of the Aug. 5 decision and ultimate resolution of the Kashmir dispute. In August 2019, India scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and unilaterally bifurcated the erstwhile state in two union territories.
Soumya Awasthi, an associate fellow at the New Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation, told Anadolu Agency that a number of decisions taken by Pakistan recently have further complicated the relations, with little chances of improvement expected in 2022.
"Pakistan initially denied trade passage to the civil aid that India wanted to send to Kabul during the COVID-19 peak period and Pakistan not allowing the air passage for Kashmir and Sharjah flight and skipping of NSA's meet by Pakistan.
- 'Afghanistan battleground'
According to analysts, the situation in Afghanistan may create more friction between the two neighbors in the future.
"The return of the Taliban has put Pakistan in de facto control of Afghanistan. This has created some unease in Delhi since it has lost a significant space and influence in Afghanistan after the return of the Taliban," said Sharma, adding that Pakistan seems to be in the "driver’s seat" on all matters in Afghanistan.
He said India, on the other hand, is also actively discussing the situation in Afghanistan, especially issues of governance, terrorism, and human rights concerns. "It is apparent that both countries have different priorities vis a vis Afghanistan," he said.
"That will likely create frictions between India and Pakistan in the near future, as we have seen in the recent case of how Islamabad put conditionalities on India’s attempt to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan via land route through Pakistan."
Awasthi said 2022 is expected to be eventful "in the sense that there will be some progress on the situation in Afghanistan."
"India should be able to ensure regional support at the diplomatic level which will not only keep Pakistan in check but also strengthen its ties with other neighboring countries," she said. "When India offered civil aid in the month of October-November, Taliban regime welcomed the support and also from time to time it has been respectful towards India’s sentiment over Kashmir."
Major events in 2021
This year will also be remembered as the year for farmers' struggle against the three new laws, which were finally repealed by the Indian parliament on Nov. 30.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan camped outside Delhi for a year, demanding that the laws be withdrawn. The farmers said the laws will threaten their livelihoods and benefit large corporations and industrialists.
On Jan. 26, on the day of the county's Republic Day as farmers decided to hold a separate Republic Day parade, heavy clashes between the farmers and police happened at several places in New Delhi, with the situation worsening in Central Delhi where farmers managed to enter the historical Red Fort.
Indian government finally had to repeal the laws to end the agitation by the farmers, which saw one of the biggest challenges Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced since coming to power in 2014.
India also came under the grip of the deadly pandemic with daily cases crossing 400,000. Deaths were reported nationwide as many hospitals ran out of oxygen supplies.
Moreover, the minorities in the country continued to bear the brunt of hate crimes amid rising intolerance.
Right-wing Hindutva groups disrupted Christmas celebrations at a number of places in India.
"Religious minorities are facing a threat," Niyaz Farooqui, secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, India's largest socio-religious Muslim organization, told Anadolu Agency. "In 2021, there was no decline, and organizations and individuals were threatened by Hindutva groups and the problem seems to be aggravating."