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Sunday, 16 December, 2001, 13:43 GMT
India and Pakistan: Tense neighbours
Ever since the partition of the sub-continent more than 50 years ago as the British dismantled their Indian empire, India and Pakistan have been arch rivals.
Their animosity has its roots in religion and history, and has recently escalated into a dangerous arms race.
Despite attempts to establish a regular dialogue and resolve outstanding issues, relations remain tense.
There is increasing international concern that the continuing hostility between the two countries could spark a major conflagration in the region and beyond.
And apart from the threat it poses to security, many analysts believe that the animosity between the two nuclear-capable powers is preventing the region from realising its full potential.
Independence and partition
When India gained its independence from Britain on 15 August 1947, the Asian sub-continent was partitioned into Hindu-dominated India and the newly-created Muslim state of Pakistan.
Around half a million people died in extensive violence and communal rioting. The death toll was highest in Punjab, which was split in two. Part of it became an Indian state and part of it became a Pakistani province.
The most problematic region was largely Muslim Kashmir. The Pakistanis argue that Kashmir should have become part of Pakistan in 1947 because the majority of its population are Muslims. They say that numerous United Nations resolutions mean that Kashmiris should be allowed to vote in a plebiscite to decide between India or Pakistan.
India says that Kashmir belongs to them because of the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja in October 1947, which handed over to Delhi powers of defence, communication and foreign affairs.
Kashmir's special status within the Indian constitution was confirmed in 1950, allowing it more autonomy than other Indian states. Under the Indian constitution, Jammu and Kashmir is a state, and went to the polls as a state.
Delhi says that under the terms of the Simla Agreement of 1972 both countries have agreed to solve the Kashmir question through bilateral negotiations, and not through international forums such as the UN.
It also says a plebiscite should not be held in Kashmir because elections have been held which demonstrate that people living there want to remain part of the Indian union.
Going to war
India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over the territory, in 1947-8 and in 1965.
And in the summer of 1999, the two countries came to brink of another war after Pakistani-backed forces infiltrated Indian-controlled Kashmir.
A bitter two-month conflict along the Line of Control only ended when Pakistani forces withdrew.
Today, roughly one third of the western part of Kashmir is administered by Pakistan. Most of the remainder is under Indian control.
The insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir began around 1989.
Since then India has constantly maintained that Pakistan has been training and supplying weapons to militant separatists.
Pakistan insists it only offers them moral support.
The nuclear race
India first began building its own nuclear weapons in the mid-1960s, after China began nuclear tests.
A few years later, Pakistan began to develop its own programme of nuclear weapons.
Both countries were also developing and testing both short-range and intermediate-range missiles.
In April 1998, Pakistan finally tested its new Ghauri intermediate-range nuclear missile, named after a 12th century Muslim warrior who conquered part of India. This test is thought to have prompted India's nuclear tests the following month.
On Monday May 11, India announced it had conducted three underground tests at Pokhran in the northern state of Rajasthan. Two days later it announced that another two explosions had taken place.
India's actions were widely condemned by the international community and Pakistan was urged not to retaliate.
But on May 28, Pakistan announced that it had conducted five nuclear tests of its own in south-western Baluchistan.
The tests were widely criticised throughout the world, and led to the imposition by some countries of sanctions.
Last month, the US lifted economic and military sanctions.
But despite strong American pressure, neither side has so far signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Pakistan - once seen as an important ally in the Cold War years - went on to have a problematic relationship with the US.
The 11 September attacks on the US brought a rapprochement as the US tried to bolster support in countries bordering Afghanistan for its strikes against the ruling Taleban and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
Now that relationship is under strain again as Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, faces strong domestic criticism for his backing of the strikes.
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