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History, Relations with India

Indian Kashmir, Kashmir region, nuclear powers, nationwide strike, nuclear devices

Relations between India and Pakistan became more tense beginning in the early 1990s. Diplomatic talks between the two countries broke down in January 1994 over the disputed Kashmir region. In February Bhutto organized a nationwide strike to show support for the militant Muslim rebels in Indian Kashmir involved in sporadic fighting against the Indian army. She also announced that Pakistan would continue with its nuclear weapons development program, raising concerns that a nuclear arms race could start between Pakistan and India, which has had nuclear weapons since the 1970s. In January 1996, despite some controversy, the United States lifted economic and some military sanctions imposed against Pakistan since 1990. The sanctions, imposed to protest Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, were lifted to allow U.S. companies to fulfill contracts with Pakistan and to help foster diplomatic relations between the two countries.

In early 1997 Sharif resumed talks with India over the Kashmir region; however, negotiations quickly broke down when armed hostilities erupted again. Tensions escalated further in 1998, when India conducted several nuclear tests. Pakistan responded with its own tests, detonating nuclear weapons for the first time in its history. The Pakistani government then declared a state of emergency, invoking constitutional provisions that operate when Pakistan’s security comes under “threat of external aggression.” Many foreign countries, including the United States, imposed economic sanctions against both India and Pakistan for exploding nuclear devices. In the months following the explosions, the leaders of Pakistan and India placed a moratorium on further nuclear testing, and the United States initiated negotiations between the two countries aimed at reducing tensions and circumventing an arms race in the region.

In early 1999 Sharif and Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed the Lahore Declaration, which articulated a commitment to work toward improved relations. However, in April fears of a nuclear arms race revived when both countries tested medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Furthermore, in May 1999 Kashmiri separatists, widely believed to be backed by Pakistan, seized Indian-controlled territory near Kargil in the disputed Kashmir region. Fighting between Indian forces and the separatists raged until July, when Sharif agreed to secure the withdrawal of the separatists and India suspended its military campaign. Tensions again escalated over the disputed region following several armed attacks on Indian targets by Kashmiri separatists in late 2001 and early 2002. By mid-2002 India and Pakistan had amassed an estimated 1 million troops along their shared border, prompting mediation efforts by the international community to improve relations between the two nuclear powers.

Article key phrases:

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