India-Pakistan relations remain fraught with danger and mistrust. Since October 2014, there have been regular exchanges of fire between their troops across the ‘Line of Control’ which runs through contested Kashmir. Turbulent times could lie ahead.
The two nuclear-armed governments accuse each other of responsibility for these skirmishes. The tenor of their exchanges has become increasingly hostile. There are also Indian claims that militant groups based on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control are seeking to infiltrate Indian-administered Kashmir in larger numbers. Over recent months, there have been several battles between militants and security forces.
Hopes that India and Pakistan could resume talks in earnest following the electoral victory of Narendra Modi in India last year have not yet been realised. He is currently acting like a man for whom a deal with Pakistan is desirable but not essential.
His self-confidence may soon receive another boost. Political developments within Indian Jammu and Kashmir could produce a coalition government involving his party, the BJP – an outcome which few observers would have predicted until very recently.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is keen to do a deal with India on Kashmir and other issues but cannot afford to look weak. He will be hoping that the PDP decides against joining up with the BJP in Indian Jammu and Kashmir.
The more moderate Kashmiri separatist leaders will share the dismay of the Pakistan government if it does. However, the armed militant groups – whose influence and reach have waned in recent years – are likely to be delighted if the BJP shares power, as increased political polarisation could act as a recruiting-sergeant for them.
Pakistan’s anxieties about the increasingly close US-India relationship have heightened recently. President Obama recently finished a three-day visit to India in which numerous deals were signed.