India-Pakistan Relations in Retrospective: I

Conflicts and Wars

Currently, relations between India and Pakistan are at the lowest ebb with least political, diplomatic or social exchange between the two countries. Only recently, following the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019 by a suicide-bomber of Jaish-e-Mohammad and consequent retaliatory strike by the Indian Air Force at Balakot, Pakistan to destroy a major training camp of the terrorist group virtually brought the two countries at the brink of war. While Pakistan establishment and a section of Indians mainly leaders of two valley-based political parties in Jammu & Kashmir and a section of media, intellectuals and liberals talk about giving another chance to restore peace and normalcy between two countries by initiating dialogue, the present Indian government is averse to grant any further concession or talk with Pakistan till it dismantles terror infrastructure and takes verifiable action against the various terror groups operating from its soil. In the current series, the author intends to briefly yet comprehensively review Indo-Pak relations in its historical perspective to conclude if Pakistan indeed deserves a second chance for the peace and stability of this region.

Prelude to Partition

Umpteen instances in the world history vindicate that whenever religion was mixed with the politics and fanatics allowed to dominate political process, it had necessarily led to socio-political conundrum often with mass violence, destruction and instability causing tremendous sufferance to humanity. Creation of Pakistan by dividing India at independence is one such classic example that gave rise to certain ticklish problems which are bothering India even after seven decades of independence. So it is not surprising when a scholar and nationalist poet Muhammad Iqbal of “Saare Jahan Se Achchha Hindostan Hamara; Hum Bulbulen Hain Iski Ye Gulistan Hamara...” fame became so radicalized in later years as to become chief motivator and proponent of a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims and consequently caused unbridgeable rift, tension and begotry between the Hindu and Muslim communities..

What could be more paradoxical and unfortunate when a scholar and poet penned down immortal verse implying that every man living in the country was an Indian and religion did not teach enmity on the basis of castes and creeds, then the same person became chief exponent of the two-nation theory on communal lines and his ideas served as the philosophical exposition and motivational force for the barrister-turned-politician Muhammad Ali Jinnah to fructify it into the political reality in 1947. Even today only few people in India know how Iqbal’s world view had changed from Hindustan to global Islam during his life time. In fact, seeds of this communal divide were sown by precursors like Islamic philosopher and reformist Sayyad Ahmad Khan way back in 1887 in his famous Lucknow speech and Chaudhary Rehmat Ali through an article “Now or Never” in 1933 in England.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muslim League capitalized on the ideology that, rather than the language, ethnicity or any other common trait, the religion was the key factor in determining the identity of Indian Muslims. The chief argument put forth by them was that the primary index of the identity and unity of Muslim population was their religion, and for the very reason, every Muslim felt more affinity towards Muslims in another territorial entity (country) than a non-Muslim in the home land. Therefore, Indian Hindus and Muslims were two distinct nations, despite their language and other ethnic commonalities. Towards the end of British Raj, this interpretation was even more radicalized to argue that that Hindus and Muslims are so different that they cannot peacefully co-exist together. Hence Muslim League demanded and forced, a separate homeland through the transfer of population i.e. removal of Hindus from the Muslim-majority areas and Muslims from the Hindu-majority areas to achieve a complete separation of two incompatible nations, the agenda remained unfinished the way following events materialized.

Post-Independence Conundrum & Trauma

Many historians and independent analysts believe that the individual ambition of key leaders of Congress and Muslim League was largely responsible for the partition of India on communal lines. Even before partition, the Noakhali riots in the Chittagong Division of erstwhile Bengal (now in Bangladesh) following the "Direct Action" call given by the Muslim League had already vitiated atmosphere leading to deep polarization of the two major communities. These riots were a series of organized massacres, rapes, abductions and forced conversion of Hindus to Islam besides arson and looting of Hindu properties by the Muslim perpetrators. This perpetration started on 10 October 1946 and continued unabated for about a week with estimated 5000 Hindus killed, hundreds of women raped and thousands of Hindus forcibly converted to Islam. Approximately fifty to seventyfive thousand survivors were uprooted from their homes and sheltered in relief camps in Comilla, Chandpur, Agartala and other surrounding places.

As per available accounts, the Indian National Congress including nationalist Muslim leaders like Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad were against the partition of the country on the basis of religion, but the Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah and British rulers siding with them had their way and thus aspiration of Jinnah and other separatist leaders was fulfilled by the creation of the Dominion of Pakistan on 14th August 1947, just a day before the Indian independence. What conundrum followed next was perhaps beyond everybody’s imagination. The Partition marked a massive and bloody upheaval as Hindus living for generations had to flee their homes overnight out of the fear of the loss of their life and property from the land that had now become Pakistan. Similarly, Muslims too in large numbers had to abandon their existing homes to cross the border into Pakistan many by choice and others fearing similar losses in retaliation. The chaos and violence that erupted went unabated for weeks leading to estimated two million people killed and more than ten million displaced.

Based on the criteria of the religious population, two big provinces Punjab in the north-west and Bengal in the east were bifurcated; simultaneously, British Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, Indian Civil Service, Railways and Central Treasury etc were also proportionally divided. During massive movement of population across the Indo-Pak border in Punjab and Bengal, approximately 6.5 million Muslims moved from India to West Pakistan and about 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs crossed border to take shelter in India in the Western side while approximately 2.6 million mostly Hindus moved from the East Pakistan to India and about 0.7 million from India to East Pakistan in the Eastern side. These migrations were not smooth and amicable but beset with large scale mob arson, sabotage, loot and violence leading to countless killings, rapes and other heinous crimes. Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other were pitted against each other in a kind of bloody civil war for weeks together. These heinous crimes against humanity indeed remain a dark chapter in the history of the Indian sub-continent.

Post-independence, Jinnah took reins of Pakistan and Nehru took India’s. After months of communal frenzy, conundrum and chaos, peace was finally restored on both sides with millions of refugees languishing in temporary shelters / transit camps on either sides. There are many accounts of the post-independence communal disturbances, arson, loot and violence, made by the historians as also numerous personal stories from people, who actually experienced its trauma and suffered with the loss of lives of their family members and belongings. Above all this, conundrum and trauma caused by these events impacted and embittered the relationship of the two communities as well as two neighbouring nations leading to many conflicts and wars in the ensuing years. Partition was made to create an exclusive homeland for Muslims, yet after seventy years population wise India has perhaps more Muslims than Islamic Pakistan. Since independence, two countries have fought four costly wars over Kashmir and during the Kargil war in 1999 they had reached dangerously close to a nuclear flashpoint.

Those who had pursued two nation theory and envisioned Pakistan as a safe destination for the peace and prosperity of Indian Muslims are not around to live else they would have been disappointed, if not ashamed, to see how a nation born out of religious bigotry and hatred have been mishandled by successive autocratic and authoritarian regimes through systematic persecution of religious minorities, human rights violations, sponsoring terrorism and proliferating weapons of mass destruction – an ideal situation wherein as per international protocol, a state is considered fit to be categorized as ‘A Rogue Nation’. It could now be anybody’s guess what good the two nation theory served to the humanity, or for that matter even to the Pakistani Muslims, other than meeting personal greed and ambitions of some political leaders. Pakistan continue to remain among the most backward and poor nations even after seventy years of its creation. Besides, it remains a hotbed and heaven for the terrorists and their sponsors causing a major hedache and security threat to the neighbours like India and Afghanistan.

Integration of Princely States

At the time of partition, there were a large number of princely states under the suzerainty of the British Crown. There were about 562 such Indian princely states, to which the British rulers gave option with some guidelines either to join India or Pakistan or remain independent. By far the most significant factor that led to the majority princes' decision to accede to India was the policy adopted by Sardar Patel and VP Menon who were entrusted with the responsibility of negotiating with the princely states. Instead of threat and coercion, these Indian leaders relied on a conciliatory approach emphasizing the unity of India and the safeguarding common interests of the princes and independent India through the Standstill Agreement and the Instrument of Accession. While most of the princely states were peacefully merged with India and few others with Pakistan, rulers of some states like Junagarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Hyderabad and Jodhpur remained uncertain or wished to remain independent. While the issues of Jodhpur and Hyderabad were amicably resolved soon, Junagarh and Kashmir proved to be difficult as Pakistan too had expressed open stake and intention for these states' merger. Consequently, their merger with the Union of India was not without political controversy and conflict with Pakistan.

1. Annexation of Junagarh

Junagarh was a small princely state in Gujarat surrounded from all sides by Indian land borders with an outlet onto the Arabian Sea. The state had a majority Hindu population (about 80%) but the Muslim ruler Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III was inclined to join Pakistan, much to the wishes of state officials, other prominent leaders and citizens. The Nawab unilaterally tried to accede to the Dominion of Pakistan against the condition of geographical contiguity and advice of Lord Mountbutton leading to retaliation from the state’s principalities of Babariawad and Mangrol causing unrest as also other neighbouring princely states demanding intervention from the Government of India. Besides, Samaldas Gandhi, a relative of Mahatma Gandhi and freedom fighter formed a government-in-exile with active support of citizens to symbolize wishes of the majority population desirous of the merger with India.

The fact that the princely state was contiguous with the Dominion of India with an overwhelming Hindu population, the Government of India formally offered Pakistan to hold a plebiscite in Junagarh. The unsettled conditions in Junagadh had led to a cessation of all trade with India and a precarious food supplies leading to a situation of civic unrest. Unable to handle the crisis, the Nawab fled to Karachi with his family and close associates leaving behind Diwan Shah Nawaz Bhutto to deal with the situation. Following this conundrum, the Government of India eventually decided to dispatch Indian armed forces for restoring order in the state and a plebiscite was organized, in which approximately 99.95% of the people preferred India over Pakistan. From the available account, out of the 2,01,457 registered voters, 1,90,870 exercised their franchise of which only 90 votes were casted in favour of Pakistan. The state was formally merged in India and Shah Nawaz Bhutto migrated to Karachi, Pakistan. His famous son Zulfikar Ali Bhutto later became instrument in shaping the destiny of Pakistan in various capacities including prime minister and president with his inherited enmity and hatred towards India and famous jibe “Pakistan will fight (India), fight for a thousand years…”

2. Accession/Merger of Jammu & Kashmir

The ruler of Jammu & Kashmir in 1947 was a Dogra Hindu King Maharaja Hari Singh, who remained uncertain about acceding to any newly formed independent dominions or remaining free of the either two. At that point of time, two other major political parties in the state were the National Conference and Muslim conference, The former was headed by the popular leader Sheikh Abdullah enjoying considerable support in the Kashmir Valley who, it is believed, was inclined towards accession of the state to India while the latter more prominent in Jammu region was tilted towards Pakistan. While Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists were keen to join India, sentiment of Muslim population was divided owing to these parties. Situation in Indian side of Punjab, only link to Kashmir, was chaotic due civic unrest and mass movement of refugees on either sides of the border. To force its accession, Pakistan cut off land supplies and transport link and pushed Pakistan army backed militant Muslims and tribesmen from the North-West Frontier Province to invade the Kashmir valley with a motive to forcibly occupy and overthrow the Dogra King.

Advancing Pakistani tribesmen and militia indulged in massive arson, loot and violence causing serious threat to the state and the Maharaja was unable to counter and stop their onslaught. While the Maharaja sought military assistance, the Government of India was apprehensive to intervene without a legal sanction; hence India airlifted its troops and supplies to stop invaders after Maharaja signed the instrument of accession on 25 October, 1947. The war between the Indian forces and invaders continued till early 1948 and shortly, thereafter, Pt. Nehru sought intervention of United Nations Security Council for the ceasefire and resolution of the issue. The UN resolution dated 21st April 1948 inter alia provided for the immediate cease-fire of hostilities, the Government of Pakistan to secure total withdrawal from the state of Jammu and Kashmir of all intruder tribesmen and Pakistani nationals, and the Government of India to reduce its forces to the minimum to enable conducive circumstances for holding a plebiscite on the future of the state.

However, owing to mutual mistrust and differences, Pakistan never vacated the occupied territory of Kashmir – a prerequisite for any referendum, and India did not demilitarize apprehending more deceitful adventure and surprises from Pakistan. With the passage of time, the question of plebiscite became impractical and irrelevant and United Nations too stopped intervention in alleged Kashmir advising the two sides to resolve dispute through bilateral negotiations. However, Kashmir remained an emotive issue for successive leaders of Pakistan and she fought three more costly and unsuccessful wars with India in1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil war) over the same issue. Failing to achieve the intended objective through wars, Pakistan resorted to proxy war through coercive measures in late 1980s. Ever since the terrorist groups like Jaish-e- Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and a score of others operating under the patronage and active support of Pakistan army and ISI have taken a heavy toll of lives and property in numerous terror attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.

Consequent to years of persecution and threat to the life and property, a large number of Hindus, especially the Kashmiri Pundits and Sikhs, have been forced to leave Kashmir and it would be unfair to ignore their existence and right to choose. Then fate and aspiration of a Buddhist Ladakhis tied to a dominant Sunni Muslims too cannot be overlooked who live with a completely different life and faith. Then a large number of outsiders have been brought and settled in the Pak-occupied Kashmir too. Besides, a significant territory of Kashmir is under unlawful occupation of Pakistan since 1948. Similarly, Aksai Chin area of Ladakh has been forcibly occupied by China and a part of the territory in that area has been illegally ceded by Pakistan to China. Thus since partition, the geography and demography of Jammu & Kashmir have undergone significant changes. Pakistan still keeps on raising the demand of plebiscite, but quite obviously, politicizing the issue to score a point is one ballgame and actually doing it is altogether a different matter because before any plebiscite, all aforesaid factors need to be factored in and original status of the state before the conflict restored.

India-Pakistan Wars

Many historians and people in either of the two countries consider 1947-48 conflict between India and Pakistan as the first Kashmir war. Needless to mention, Kashmir became a highly emotive issue an obsession for the successive Pakistani rulers and army in the following years. Jinnah is often referred to have quoted Kashmir as the “jugular vein of Pakistan” in his Independent Day speech to Pakistani public and ever since, many heads of state and army chiefs of Pakistan are known for this rhetoric despite a lawful integration of the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India in 1947. Kashmir has been the main obstacle in normalizing relations between the two countries who have fought three costly wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999 (limited to Kargil), including constant low-intensity border conflicts and unabated terrorism in Kashmir in peace time since last three decades.

1965: Miscalculation Backfired

Most probably, the result of Sino-Indian War of 1962 exposing India’s military ill-preparedness and strategic failures and political events like Nehru’s death in 1964, made Pakistan more emboldened and aggressive with India on territorial disputes of which Kashmir constituted central theme. Moreover, the United States had armed Pakistan with sophisticated weaponry including the advanced Sabre jets and Patton tanks considered to be invincible in the conventional warfare. Some defence analysts have opined that the military establishment under Pakistani President General Ayub Khan was under impression following these developments that India with its weak military and political leadership would not be able to defend Kashmir against a quick, sharp and powerful military campaign.

The conflict started with sporadic incursion of Pakistani patrols in the Indian territory of Rann of Kutch in January 1965 and next 2-3 months there were several intermittent skirmishes between the two security forces vitiating normal relations. Pakistani establishment and President Ayub Khan apparently miscalculated that the Kashmiri population could be easily turned against India through a covert operation leading to a mass uprisings and support to Pakistan army in the event of a war. Hence Pakistan army started a covert strategy of massive infiltration by army regulars in Kashmir during August 1965 under the code name Operation Gibralter but the operation was soon exposed by some vigilant Kashmiris and the Indian army retaliated with counter measures in full strength. Soon full scale hostilities broke out between the two sides resulting in an all-out war towards the last week of August,1965.

While it was an all-out war but the Kashmir remained the central theme where Pakistanis gained some advantage in the Chumb sector and south of Sindh while India captured strategic Haji Pir Pass, gained significant advances in Lahore and Sialkot Sectors as also in certain areas of Sindh province. Contrary to the much hyped Pakistani strength of superior air power and armoury, the field tactics and war strategy of Indian soldiers on the ground proved to be more effective and decisive. The war lasted for about a month in which the Indian army captured about about 1,800 Sq Km mainly in fertile areas of Lahore, Sialkot, Sindh and Kashmir while Pakistan gained about 550 Sq Km in the desert south of Sindh and Chumb sector in Jammu & Kashmir. Both sides suffered with heavy causalities of estimated 3,000 Indian soldiers and 3,800 Pakistani soldiers besides significant loss of equipment and weaponry. In spite of qualitative and numerical superiority of Pakistani armour, Indian forces outfought Pakistanis in some of the largest tank battles while Indian Folland Gnet fighter (later nick-named Sabre Slayer) outsmarted Pakistani F-86 Sabre jets in several dog-fights. Among the claims and counterclaims of the two adversaries, in the eyes of the neutral analysts and observers, India was largely perceived as a victor.

1971: Liberation of Bangladesh

The immediate cause of 1971 Indo-Pak war was 1970 General Elections in Pakistan and following ugly events. Following a landslide victory of the Awami League (East Pakistan) led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his party’s constitutional right to form a government was refused President General Yahya Khan in collusion with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the second largest Pakistan People’s Party (West Pakistan. As such East Pakistan had a long history of socio-cultural, economic and political exploitation and discrimination at the hands of rulers based in West Pakistan, this denial of the transfer of power to the democratically elected party triggered massive agitation and unrest led by Awami League in East Pakistan. Yahya khan deployed Pakistani army to crush the popular uprisings and the army resorted to a ruthless suppression through widespread arson, loot, murder and rape (many termed it genocide of the Bengalis), leading to about 10 million refugees crossing border in the neighbouring Indian states. Despite large scale human rights violation and continued violence for months, the international community led by USA and Western Europe did practically nothing while India was reeling under the tremendous pressure politically and economically to support such a large number of refugees and prevent human rights violations occurring right under her nose.

Consequently, India had no option but to provide moral and material support to the freedom struggle of the Mukti Vahini formed in the East Pakistan in retaliation. However, an all-out war broke between India and Pakistan when frustrated with its reverses in the East Pakistan at the hands of Mukti Vahini, Pakistan launched pre-emptive air strikes on eleven Indian airbases on 3rd December, 1971. Consequently, the Indian Air Force proceeded with the immediate retaliatory air strikes on eight Pakistani airbases. The scope of air strikes was expanded to both the western and eastern wings of Pakistan and the Indian Air Force soon established complete control over the air space of East Pakistan. Indian Navy too swung into swift action and after overcoming some initial resistance was able to contain and inflict heavy losses to Pakistan Navy in the Arabian Sea besides controlling all sea routes in the Bay of Bengal.

Commencement of land hostilities in the western wing made India formally joining the war of independence in the East Pakistan. This extensive and intensive war lasted merely for thirteen days with major cities in the East Pakistan falling to joint command of the Indian forces and Mukti Vahini in succession and Dhaka on the 16th December leading to the liberation of Bangladesh and Pakistani army signing the Instrument of Surrender in the eastern theatre. Approximately 93,000 Pakistani regulars including some para-military personnel and civilians were taken as Prisoners of War (POWs) by the Indian army. On the Western front too, the Indian Armed Forces conducted massive air, sea and land assaults. India was better prepared this time and they captured about 14,000 Sq Km of Pakistan territory in Sindh, Punjab and Kashmir regions by the end of war.

By the time India announced a unilateral ceasefire, Pakistan had already suffered a humiliating defeat. With its dismemberment and emergence of Bangladesh, it had lost almost half of its population and economy, entire Army in East Pakistan was taken as POWs and a significant territorial loss occurred on the West front. Despite the victory and dominance of this magnitude, India remained sober and restrained in the post-war scenario. USA had sided with Pakistan dispatching a strong naval fleet in the Indian Ocean during the war with threatening gestures but the Russian counter measures and commitment of military assistance in the event of any third nation intervention, barred them from any misadventure. India refused any possibility of third party mediation; consequently, the bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan led to the Shimla Agreement on 2nd July, 1972. India showed its goodwill gesture by unconditionally releasing POWs and returning the captured territory in Sindh and Punjab provinces.

1999 – Kargil Misadventure

The notorious Kargil misadventure of the Pakistani army is significant in the history of the Indo-Pak relations as this was largely responsible for defeating and derailing the peace initiative few weeks back taken by then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee through his famous bus journey to Lahore on 19 February 1999 and signing Lahore Declaration with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Shariff defining confidence building measures for the long term peace and stability. The immediate cause of war was the infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary personnel in the disguise of mujahedeen occupying in manned vantage positions at Kargil heights on the Indian side of the Line of Control during the extreme winter threatening the national highway that connects Srinagar and Leh.

Pakistani intrusion was soon discovered when five Indian soldiers headed by Captain Saurabh Kalia were captured on 5th May, 1999 and badly tortured to death by intruders. This was a barbaric and subhuman act of utmost provocation which compelled massive mobilization of Indian army to Kargil sector and across the LOC in Jammu and Kashmir. Initial strikes code-named “Operation Vijay” were made by the Indian Air Force followed by major offensive by Indian army in the first week of June, 1999. This high altitude war was fought by Indian Army engaging 155 MM Howitzer guns for the first time at such heights and engaging Air Force, and slowly but decisively the army secured several key positions occupied by infiltrators. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought US President Bill Clinton’s support who, it is believed, instead admonished him to rein in the militants and Pakistani forces to vacate Indian positions. While the operation was in final leg, sensing an imminent defeat, growing international criticism and President Clinton’s pressure, Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif managed to pull back the remaining soldiers from the Indian Territory by 26th July, 1999.

Other Contentious Issues and Conflicts

1. Refugees Crisis

Following partition, a significant percentage of Hindus opted to stay back in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). They constantly faced persecution at the hands of fanatic Bengali Muslims and Pakistani officials. Consequently, India received about one million Hindu refugees crossing borders in West Bengal and other bordering states in 1949 due to communal violence, intimidation and repression. This refugees exodus from East Pakistan not only outraged Hindu nationalists but also drained the meager resources of the bordering Indian states, creating another war like situation. Following negotiations in Delhi, Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan reached an agreement that both countries would protect minorities and create minority commissions to look after their welfare and settlement. Following this, many Hindu families returned to East Pakistan, but the peace did not last long and persecution continued though at a lower intensity.

2. Water disputes

Six rivers namely the Indus, Chenab, Beas, Sutlej, Ravi and Jhelum originate in India and flow into Pakistan. The Indus Treaty was signed between the two countries during the early 1960s to create an understanding and sharing of water. This treaty broadly divided three rivers for use by each country: India had the Beas, Sutlej and Ravi while Pakistan had access to Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Scarcity of water, growing population and settlement in catchment areas and consequent management and sharing of meager water resources are cause of many conflicts across the world and India-Pakistan water conflict is no exception. Growing scarcity, increase in population and poor management of water resources in India and Pakistan are the chief reasons for water dispute between two countries.

India constructed a hydro-electric power plant in Doda district in 1990s along the Chenab river which was interpreted by Pakistani establishment as Indian move to control these water resources and a potential cause of tension between two countries. The Indus Treaty did not address precise projections of the water needs of both countries nor there were any restrictions for the construction of power plant or use for agricultural purposes. However, both countries were expected to share such technical details for commencing operations. Currently, both the countries have disputes over construction of Baglihar dam and few other hydro-electric plants. Such disputes are partly political and partly out of genuine concerns of the two countries.

3. Afghanistan Peace Process

Afghanistan is one politically unstable neighbouring country which has remained disturbed due to foreign countries intervention and militant Taliban. Traditionally, Pakistan has supported Taliban and India and other neighbours backed the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. India’s friendly relations with Afghanistan and its increasing presence there to build its infrastructure and other developmental support constantly irks Pakistan which considers India has no role in Afghanistan peace process. On the other hand, India, Afghanistan, the United States constantly hold Pakistan responsible for terrorism in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

To be continued...


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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