India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir dispute: unpacking the dynamics of a South Asian frozen conflict

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DOI: 10.1007/s10308-018-0526-5
Cite this publication
The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan remains at the core of one of the most intractable conflicts in modern history. This article provides a plausibility probe into the dynamics of this South Asian rivalry that is conceptually based on the dynamic understanding of “frozen conflicts” introduced in this special issue of Asia Europe Journal. We lay out the key features of the conflict vis-à-vis the redefined notion of frozen conflicts, situating the rivalry in the broader category of unresolved protracted conflicts with a looming threat of violence renewal. In turn, we examine the three transformational dynamics as they operate in this particular case: peaceful thawing, violent thawing, and conflict withering. We conclude that despite the ongoing developments within the conflict dynamics, the possibility of conflict transformation through any of the suggested pathways remains unlikely in the near future.
1 23
Asia Europe Journal
Studies on Common Policy Challenges
ISSN 1610-2932
Asia Eur J
DOI 10.1007/s10308-018-0526-5
India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir dispute:
unpacking the dynamics of a South Asian
frozen conflict
Sumit Ganguly, Michal Smetana, Sannia
Abdullah & Ales Karmazin
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India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir dispute: unpacking
the dynamics of a South Asian frozen conflict
Sumit Ganguly
&Michal Smetana
Sannia Abdullah
&Ales Karmazin
#Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan remains at the core of one
of the most intractable conflicts in modern history. This article provides a plausibility
probe into the dynamics of this South Asian rivalry that is conceptually based on the
dynamic understanding of Bfrozen conflicts^introduced in this special issue of Asia
Europe Journal. We lay out the key features of the conflict vis-à-vis the redefined
notion of frozen conflicts, situating the rivalry in the broader category of unresolved
protracted conflicts with a looming threat of violence renewal. In turn, we examine the
three transformational dynamics as they operate in this particular case: peaceful
thawing, violent thawing, and conflict withering. We conclude that despite the ongoing
developments within the conflict dynamics, the possibility of conflict transformation
through any of the suggested pathways remains unlikely in the near future.
Asia Eur J
*Michal Smetana
Sumit Ganguly
Sannia Abdullah
Ales Karmazin
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
Department of Asian Studies, Metropolitan University Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
Author's personal copy
The Indo-Pakistani rivalry remains one of the most intractable conflicts of modern
history. Since 1947, the two South Asian neighbors have fought four wars and gone
through multiple crises and military standoffs. As of today, the peaceful resolution of
the core dispute between India and Pakistanthe fate of the border state of Jammu and
Kashmirdoes not seem to be in sight.
This article aims to unpack the dynamics of the Indo-Pakistani rivalry analytically
through the conceptual lenses of Bfrozen conflicts^introduced in this special issue of
Asia Europe Journal (see Smetana and Ludvik, this issue). Despite the abundance of
scholarship dealing with different aspects of this South Asian enmity, so far, there have
been no explicit attempts to conceptualize the case as a frozen conflict. While this term
has been mostly reserved for unresolved conflicts in the post-Soviet space, we argue
that its conceptual features are also applicable to the present case.
As such, this article serves as a plausibility probe to test the applicability of this
conceptual framework beyond the traditional Eastern-European regional focus. As
outlined in the seminal essay by Eckstein (1975), plausibility probes are pragmatic
tools for evaluating the usefulness of the proposed theories and concepts before
they are rigorously tested within a more elaborated research design (see also Levy
2008; George and Bennett 2005, p. 75). To that end, we investigate and discuss the
logic of the Indo-Pakistani conflict Bfrozenness,^including the three proposed
mechanisms of frozen-conflict dynamics: peaceful thawing, violent thawing, and
conflict withering.
In the article, we proceed as follows. First, we provide a brief review of the academic
literature that approaches the Indo-Pakistani rivalry as a specific instance of a more
general international relations (IR) concept. Second, we discuss the match between the
South Asian conflict and the definitional features of frozen conflicts introduced in this
special issue. Third, we investigate the logic of peaceful thawing in the conflict and the
repeated failures of diplomatic initiatives to achieve a stable peace between the two
countries. Fourth, we unpack the logic of violent thawing and discuss the inability of
either side to terminate the conflict through military victory. Fifth, we outline the
possible avenues for conflict withering. We conclude by summarizing the findings
and recommend directions for future research in this area.
Literature review
Although IR scholars have already approached the Indo-Pakistani rivalry from various
theoretical and conceptual angles, they have mostly shied away from explicitly label-
ling it as a Bfrozen conflict.^Nevertheless, popular accounts characterize the Kashmir
conflict as frozen quite frequently (Dobhal 2017;DW2016;Polgreen2010), some-
times drawing an analogy between the quality of the conflict and the prevailing climatic
conditions in the mountains in the disputed area (Bearak 1999;North2014). It is not
surprising that such accounts do not elaborate on the qualities of the conflict
Bfrozenness^more closely and do not transform the notion into a well worked out
analytical category. Policy papers, briefs, or expert analyses occasionally use the frozen
conflict perspective as well (e.g., Ray 2012;Sridhar2007) but their insights are usually
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constrained by their focus on the specific aspects or periods of the conflict without
providing comprehensive and systematic insights into the overall conflict dynamics.
As such, the systematic use of the frozen conflict concept for scrutinizing the rivalry
between India and Pakistan has been rare. Rather than frozen, the Kashmir conflict is
usually labeled and examined as an Benduring rivalry^(esp. Paul 2005), Bprotracted
conflict^(e.g., Ganguly 2001;Brecher2016; Khan 2002;Mahapatra2016; Venugopal
and Yasir 2017), or an Bintractable conflict^(e.g., Coleman 2003; Crocker et al. 2005;
Kriesberg 1993; Vallacher et al. 2011). If IR scholars ever apply the frozen conflict
concept in the Indo-Pakistani case, it mainly serves to provide a general description of
the conflicts character, rather than a central analytical category through which they
would examine the conflict (Baghel and Nüsser 2015; Bose 1999;Jahn2015, pp. 205
220; Stavrevska et al. 2016). Such usage is, to a large extent, merely intuitive.
There are very few cases when the character of the Kashmir conflict is discussed
with at least some links to the conceptual foundations of frozen conflicts. Such a
discussion, if present at all, usually does not go very far. For example, Baghel and
Nüsser (2015) indicate their critical stance toward the use of the frozen conflict concept
in the Indo-Pakistani case as there is Batemporaldynamism^without developing this
statement any further. However, as noted by Chavez Fregoso and Zivkovic (2012,p.
140), the adjective Bfrozen^does mean that the situation on the ground does not change
over time, but merely that the conflict does not transformto some extent, change is
inherent in all frozen conflicts (cf. Smetana and Ludvík, this issue). As such, the
academic exploration of the Indo-Pakistani conflict as a frozen one lacks the depth,
systematic analysis, and discussion of how the Kashmir dispute relates to other frozen
Conceptualizing frozen conflict
In the introductory article to this special issue, Smetana and Ludvik defined frozen
conflict as a Bprotracted, post-war conflict process, characterized by the absence of
stable peace between the opposing sides.^Moreover, in frozen conflicts, Bcore issues
between the opposing sides remain unresolved, the dispute is in the forefront of mutual
relations, and there is a looming threat of violence renewal^(Smetana and Ludvík, this
issue). In this section, we discuss the applicability of this conceptual focus of frozen
conflicts on the empirical case of Indo-Pakistani rivalry.
The origins of the Indo-Pakistani rivalry can be traced back to the process of British
colonial withdrawal from the subcontinent in 1947. The British chose to partition the
subcontinent mostly along demographic lines; predominantly, Muslim areas of the
British Indian Empire came to constitute Pakistan. In addition to those areas that had
been formally under the aegis of the British Crown, there also remained some five
hundred Bprincely states.^Lord Mountbatten, the last representative of the Crown,
decreed that these states would have to accede to India or Pakistan according to their
geographic contiguity and demography (see Copland 1997). However, the disposition
of Jammu and Kashmir posed a problem: it shared borders with both India and
Pakistan, had a Muslim-majority population, and a Hindu monarch. The nationalist
leaderships of both countries were keenly interested in integrating Kashmir into their
respective states. Indian elites were keen on holding on to Kashmir to demonstrate that
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a predominantly Muslim state could exist within a secular polity. Pakistani elites, on the
other hand, wanted to acquire Kashmir on irredentist grounds.
One of the key characteristics that sets frozen conflicts apart from other types of
protracted conflicts in international politics is the formative experience of initial war.
This original violent episode started in October 1947 when Pakistan mounted a military
operation to seize the state of Jammu and Kashmir by force (Sisson and Rose 1990;
Dasgupta 2014). Indian forces managed to stop the advance of the Pakistan-supported
raiders but not before they had successfully seized about one-third of the territory of the
state. The United Nations Security Council imposed a cease-fire which came into effect
on 1 January 1949. This first Indo-Pakistani military clash involved sustained combat,
organized armed forces, and an estimated number of 1500 casualties on the Indian and
6000 on the Pakistani side, qualifying the violent episode as a war under the Correlates
of War project definition (Singer and Small 1982, pp. 205206).
In the more than 70 years since the First Kashmir War, the unresolved territorial
status of Jammu and Kashmir has remained the core issue in the South Asian conflict.
As such, together with the Israeli-Arab conflict, the Indo-Pakistani rivalry remains one
of the longest protracted conflicts of our times. The absence of direct violence in certain
periods (e.g., 19711989) can largely be attributed to Indian military preponderance
rather than a temporary transformation of the adversarial relationship (Ganguly
2001)with the employment of force always part of the cost-benefit calculations of
both actors even in crises that did not turn violent. The Kashmir dispute has been
permanently in the forefront of bilateral relations and has remained highly salient in the
domestic politics of both countries. The complexity of the conflict has been further
deepened through the involvement of Pakistan-backed terrorists in the Indian-
controlled portion of Kashmir, repeatedly influencing the dynamics of the South Asian
conflict by carrying out attacks against Indian military and civilian targets.
Peaceful thawing and the logic of conflict (non-)transformation
Peaceful thawing is the intra-conflict dynamics resulting from diplomatic negotiations
between the belligerents. As discussed in Smetana and Ludvik (this issue), Bin the case
of frozen conflicts, these thawing dynamics usually stop short of conflict transforma-
tion. Instead, after reaching the peak of the thawing process, the conflict slips back to
frozenness.^In this section, we discuss the drivers of peaceful thawing in the history
of the Indo-Pakistani conflict, with particular focus on factors rooted in domestic
politics and idiosyncratic political personalities in the two countries, as well as pressure
from third parties. Additionally, we seek to identify Bwhat happens at the critical
junction, when the thawing can potentially lead to conflict transformation but instead
the process reaches its peak and the conflict re-freezes^(Smetana and Ludvik, this
Examples of peaceful thawing driven by internal developments have been particu-
larly prominent within the Indo-Pakistani conflict dynamics since the 1990s, especially
in relation to the processes connected with the 1999 Lahore Summit, the 2001 Agra
Summit, and the 20032009 Composite Dialogue. For example, in 1999, Indian Prime
Minister Vajpayee visited Pakistan to attend the Lahore Summit together with his
Pakistani counterpart Sharif. Two major factors contributed to the Indian decision to
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pursue a possible rapprochement with Pakistan at the time. The first was the success of
Indias counterinsurgency strategy in Kashmirhaving restored a degree of normalcy
in the country, Vajpayee felt sufficiently confident on the domestic scene about
pursuing a dialogue with its adversary. The second may have stemmed from a careful
calculation to normalize IndiasBdeviant image^in the wake of the Pokhran-II nuclear
tests and to assuage the concerns of the global community (and particularly the USA)
regarding strategic stability in the region (cf. Raja Mohan 2004; Ganguly and Wagner
In Lahore, Vajpayee made a dramatic symbolic gesture. At the place where the
resolution on the creation of the state of Pakistan was passed in 1940, he unequivocally
committed India to the territorial integrity of Pakistan. In the aftermath of this visit,
confident in the belief that a process of rapprochement with Pakistan was under way,
Indian authorities chose to reduce their level of alertness along the Indo-Pakistani
borders both in Kashmir and elsewhere. What Indian intelligence had failed to ascer-
tain, however, was that the Pakistani military establishment was wholly opposed to the
pursuit of a relaxation of tensions with India. It remains an intriguing counterfactual
question about what may have transpired after Vajpayees visit had he had a viable
interlocutor in Pakistan.
The Lahore Declaration was arguably the most important bilateral agreement ever
signed between the two countries. While the subsequent 1999 Kargil War had contrib-
uted to a profound sense of betrayal, Vajpayee eventually chose to invite General
Pervez Musharraf to the city of Agra in July 2001 for a dialogue. This meeting, while
initially promising, ended in an impasse. Two factors, it is widely believed, contributed
to the deadlock. Some Indian interlocutors argue that Musharraf was overly keen on
pushing for an agreement without suitable discussion of particular details (Chawla et al.
2001). This was unacceptable to key members of the Indian delegation at the talks.
More to the point, Musharraf was unwilling to address any Indian concerns about
Pakistans involvement with terror (Sarma 2001). The second related reason was the
unwillingness on the part of some key Indian officials to reach an accord with
Musharraf unless he was willing to make suitable concessions on this critical matter
(cf. Wheeler 2010;Baral2002).
In 2005, Musharraf floated another proposal to resolve the Kashmir conflict by first
demilitarizing the region and granting the territory independent status either under a
UN mandate or Indo-Pakistani joint control. In addition, the following year, Musharraf
proposed a Bfour-point agenda^for settling the Kashmir dispute: a gradual withdrawal
of troops, self-governance, no changes to the regions borders, and a joint supervision
mechanism (Hussain 2007). Whereas moderates in India called the proposal an
Bopportunity,^hardliners saw it as Bunacceptable.^Eventually, yet another attempt to
bring about a bilateral peaceful thawing of the conflict had failed.
Musharrafs push to resolve the Kashmir dispute nevertheless demonstrates that
there are drivers to peaceful thawing that go beyond the domestic politics in the two
countriesspecifically, that there is an indirect role of third parties, in this case, the
USA. In a BBC interview, Musharraf himself mentioned the pressure from US
President George W. Bush to settle the Kashmir issue (BBC 2006). Nevertheless,
third-party pressure to find a peaceful resolution has been a part of the conflict since
its very beginning. Already, the 19481949 war resulted in several United Nations
resolutions that aimed to address the very core of the conflict (see UNSC 1951).
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After the 1972 Simla Agreement, in which both countries agreed to settle their
pending disputes bilaterally (Ministry of External Affairs of India 1972), the interna-
tional community stopped paying attention to the conflict until the very end of the
1980s when an insurgency erupted in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Since then, it is
primarily the USA that has exerted pressure on the two countries to initiate and sustain
diplomatic dialogue (e.g., in the 1999 Kargil War, when Bill Clinton persuaded Nawaz
Sharif to withdraw Pakistani military forces from Kargil). At the same time, India and
Pakistan have often exerted indirect coercive pressure on each other through the USA
as a powerful, potential intermediary (Bratton 2010).
Nevertheless, while Pakistan is generally more open to an internationalization of the
conflict and continues to beat the same drum of seeking a solution to the Kashmir
dispute through a plebiscite in accordance with UNSC resolutions, Indiasstanceona
resolution remains focused on a bilateral solution. For example, the spokesperson of
Indias Ministry of External Affairs recently mentioned that Bwe are ready to talk
Kashmir with Pakistan, but no third-party mediation^(Al Jazeera 2017). As such, the
third-party intervention is a non-starter for India, while it also gives New Delhi greater
discretion to leave the conflict pending.
Moreover, there are four major Bspoilers^that prevent the Indo-Pakistani frozen
conflict from transformation through peaceful thawing: (1) actions of local violent non-
state actors that thrive on the Bfrozen conflict economy,^(2) public attitudes in India
that oppose a conciliatory approach to the Kashmir issue, (3) distrust between the
political and military leaderships in Pakistan, and (4) the changing character of the
indigenous Kashmir uprising.
First, terrorist attacks against Indian targets are frequently a driver of violence
escalation in the frozen conflict and a spoiler of any ongoing diplomatic initiatives
heading toward stable peace. For example, the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament
following the Agra summit culminated in a military standoff and ruined any attempts
for further dialogue; Bthe peace process was the first casualty and all links, including
transport and diplomatic, with Pakistan were snapped^(Misra 2007, p. 509). In 2008,
terrorist attacks in Bombay contributed to the failure of the Composite Dialogue.
Similarly, in 2015, Indian Prime Minister Modi chose to make a brief stopover in
Pakistan on his way back from a state visit to Afghanistan. This abrupt decision to meet
with his Pakistani counterpart on the latters birthday was seen as an attempt to break
the logjam in the relationship (Barry and Masood 2015). However, barely a week after
this visit, a Pakistan-based terrorist group attacked a major Indian air force base in
Pathankot in the border state of Punjab (Najar 2016). The attack convinced many in
Indias decision-making circles that Sharif, though the legally elected prime minister,
was either unwilling or unable to rein in terrorist forces operating from Pakistanssoil.
Second, the sense of Kashmirs exceptionalism, or perhaps more precisely, excep-
tional importance, has deeply penetrated public sentiments in India, as well as Indian
popular culture. Civil society and politicians frequently repeat the argument that the
pressure of public opinion compels Indias leadership to take a coercive stance toward
Pakistan. This conversely means that political leaders are rarely interested in bringing
the Kashmir issue to the table. Weak political will speaks to the half-hearted attempts
that fail to shift gears from peace thawing to conflict transformation. For instance, after
the 2008 terrorist attacks, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in New
Delhi tried to revive the composite dialogue. However, domestic public opinion placed
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significant constraints on the government from sustaining the dialogue with Pakistan.
While it made some efforts in particular forums, these proved to be of little avail. Worse
still, one of these overtures, made during a Non-Aligned summit meeting at Sharm-el-
Sheikh in Egypt, generated considerable political opposition as critics argued that the
government had made unilateral concessions to Pakistan (Bhushan 2009). During the
remainder of the UPA government, little else of any consequence transpired despite
some desultory attempts at negotiation.
Third, Pakistans political leadership faces the entrenched hostility of its military
establishment, which does not trust the politicians to settle the Kashmir issue through
dialogue. Since its foundation, Pakistan has experienced several military coupsin
1958, 1969, 1977, and again in 1999. Since the 1977 coup of General Zia-ul-Haq, the
Pakistani military has relied on Islamic groups to pursue its military objectives against
India. Despite the processes of democratization after 1988, the importance of Islamist
groups continued to rise alongside other tensions between the civil and military
leaderships. The resulting civil-military distrust and strong bureaucratic inertia of the
Pakistani establishment impede any efforts to resolve the Kashmir dispute, as repeat-
edly demonstrated throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
Finally, since 2008, the character of the indigenous Kashmir uprising has been
changing from a nationalist freedom movement to an Islamist movement. Pakistans
covert support to the Kashmiri has arguably altered the character of the conflict, with
the local rhetoric newly eclipsed by the jihad narrative. As such, BKashmiri nationalism
is once again back in vogue, [] the Islamist discourse is no longer looked upon as an
alien imposition from outsidebut is gradually becoming a home-grownphenome-
non, marginalizing the much older ethos of Kashmiriyat^(Behera 2016, p. 46). These
developments also result in a closer connection between indigenous actors with
transnational Islamist groups, further complicating the aforementioned involvement
of violent non-state actors in the overall conflict dynamics. The resistance in Kashmir
stimulates further violence, which negatively impacts the general prospect of success-
fully transforming the frozen conflict through peaceful thawing.
Violent thawing and the logic of conflict (non-)transformation
Violent thawing stands for the (re-)escalation of violence between the opposing sides in
frozen conflicts. One of the key characteristics of frozen conflicts is that these violent
episodes may alter the status quo but do not lead to conflict transformation through a
decisive military victory by either side. Whereas the Indo-Pakistani conflict periodi-
cally escalates, the violence is unlikely to reach the stage of full conflict transformation
and the conflict always returns to its original Bfrozenness,^eroding the fabric for
immediate opportunity to weave in peaceful settlement.
The nuclear revolution in South Asia after 1998 is an example of an endogenous
factor that minimized a major conventional war scenario. While nuclear weapons in
South Asia function as a Bgreat stabilizer^on the level of all-out war, they simulta-
neously allow for instability at the lower levels of violence. This logic is recognized as
the stability-instability paradox (Ganguly 1995; Kapur 2005;Mistry2009;Ganguly
and Hagerty 2012). The miscalculation of signals represents a real-time challenge for
decision-makers in South Asia during individual instances of violent thawing of a
India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir dispute: unpacking the dynamics of...
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conflict with a history of broken peace accords and no channel of communications open
to verify (dis-)trust. The processes of violent thawing in the South Asian context thus
represent a mix of limited offensives, insecurities, miscalculations of intentions by
leaders, and preventive attempts to alter the status quo between India and Pakistan over
In regard to the 1999 Kargil War, some scholars have argued that nuclear
weapons may have encouraged the Pakistani military leadership of General Pervez
Musharraf to embark upon this venture. They contend that Pakistani decision-
makers had concluded that India would be loath to respond with much vigor for
fear of nuclear escalation (Ganguly and Kapur 2010). While this remained a
predominant factor for assessing the limitations of the Indian response, other
significant factors also contributed to Pakistans decision to launch the operation
in Kargil.
First and foremost, a Kargil-type operation was planned much earlier and was
shelved for not being approved by the competent authorities of the time (Kargil
Review Committee 2000). Second, the outbreak of violence is closely related to the
very success of the Indian counterinsurgency strategy. Pakistansmilitaryleadership
concluded that India had successfully managed to restore a modicum of order in its part
of the disputed state. Consequently, external attention to the insurgency was waning. A
renewed conflict between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests
would refocus external attention on the dispute. Third, Pakistan thought to bring India
to the table and seek a resolution of the Kashmir situation from a position of equality as
it was now too a nuclear power. Fourth, Pakistan wanted to get even with India over the
loss of the Siachen Glacier in 1984. Fifth, according to internal Indian discourse, Kargil
was also a result of an Indian intelligence failure with respect to Pakistan (Kargil
Review Committee 2000).
However, the role of nuclear weapons in Kargil prevented escalation from India.
Unlike in 1965, when India quickly resorted to horizontal escalation in the Punjab to
relieve pressure on Kashmir, on this occasion, Indian forces carefully limited their
actions to the Kargil sector. By early July, Indian forces had successfully routed all the
Pakistani intruders.
After Kargil, violent non-state actors became a leading source of violent thawing in
thesuccessivecrises.The20012002 military standoff between India and Pakistan Bput
into motion the largest military mobilisation since World War II,^with B[o]ver 500,000
Indian troops [] mobilised in the first stage of deployment^(Gupta 2016). As noted
above, the crisis resulted from a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament by elements of
two Pakistan-based terrorist organizations, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-
Taiba. All the attackers were killed in a gun battle that ensued between them and the
Indian security forces. In the wake of this attack, the Indian government squarely
placed the blame on Pakistan and made a series of demands on the country. India was
unable to respond promptly to this terrorist attack as it had failed to develop any viable
military options that it could promptly set in motion. Consequently, it had to gradually
embark on a massive mobilization of its armed forces to implement a strategy of
coercive diplomacy designed to induce Pakistan to end its support for terror (cf.
Ganguly and Kraig 2005;Raghavan2009). The Indian mobilization led to a counter-
mobilization of Pakistani forces. This standoff continued until the fall of 2002 when
India chose to demobilize its forces. To a considerable degree, the Indian political
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leadership may have been inhibited from authorizing a full-scale war because of the
dangers of potential escalation.
In the wake of the crisis, Indian policymakers concluded that they needed a new set
of policy options to deal with a future Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack. To that end,
they tasked the armed forces with fashioning a military doctrine that would enable the
country to swiftly respond to another, dramatic terrorist attack. This doctrine came to be
known as BCold Start^and called for the pre-positioning of weapons and equipment
along strategic salients along the borders, plans for rapid mobilization, and close
coordination amongst the armed forces (Ladwig 2008).
Another dimension of violent thawing is explained by the parochial interests of
organizations and the role of domestic politics. For instance, the Pakistani militarys
incentive to freeze its stronger adversary over the Kashmir conflict is a cost-
effective strategy. For years, Pakistani actions have tied down thousands of Indian
soldiers in the counterinsurgency campaign, exacting economic costs on India
(Tellis et al. 2001,p.65).
On an earlier occasion, Pakistan, under the martial law rule of General Ayub Khan,
conceived the 1965 military operation on the basis of the modernization plans of the
Indian military in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Pakistan militarysmuscle
was in relatively good shape after entering into a military alliance with the USA in
1954, and it encouraged the military to execute Operation Gibraltar in 1965 before
Indian military hardware could further improve. Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs at the time, prodded Ayub Khan to provoke a conflict with India in
order to seize Kashmir. Anti-Indian domestic disturbances within Indian-controlled
Kashmir led Ayub Khan and his associates to assume that there might be widespread
support for a Pakistan-supported invasion of the region. Though the Pakistani military
had entertained high hopes of a swift military victory, the conflict ended mostly in a
stalemate. Furthermore, the Indian military as well as the political leadership of Prime
Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri demonstrated much more resolve than the Pakistani
leadership had expected. Therefore, the 1965 war and internal violent insurgency ended
with territorial status quo in Kashmir and froze the bilateral rivalry into a stalemate.
The 1971 war, that led to the break-up of Pakistan and the creation of the new state
of Bangladesh, once again demonstrated the role of domestic politics, this time
emerging from internal forces in East Pakistan. The origins of the crisis can be traced
from the electoral results of Pakistans first free and fair election held in 1970. A
regional party in East Pakistan, the Awami League (AL), swept the polls. Given the
demographic composition of Pakistan, this meant that it would command a majority in
parliament. The results were unacceptable to the Pakistan Army and to the dominant
party in West Pakistan, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Discussions about power
sharing arrangements ensued but quickly reached a deadlock. Meanwhile, the ALs
stance became increasingly intransigent with growing calls for enhanced regional
autonomy (Jackson 1975;SissonandRose1990). During this time, the insurgency in
East Pakistan had already reached its peak. To contain the internal disturbances, the
army launched a campaign of widespread repression in East Pakistan culminating in the
deaths of several hundred thousand civilians (Bass 2014). Confronted with this crack-
down, some ten million refugees sought shelter in India. The Indian leadership under
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi quickly concluded that it could ill afford to absorb them
into its already turgid population. Accordingly, they devised a politico-military strategy
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to break up Pakistan and help create a new state. The adoption of this strategy
culminated in a war with Pakistan in December 1971. Pakistani forces faced defeat.
A post-war settlement was reached at the old British colonial summer capital of Simla
in 1972. Under the terms of this accord, both sides reiterated their commitment to
abjure from the use of force to settle the Kashmir dispute. The Cease-Fire Line (CFL)
was also converted into the Line of Control (LoC) reflecting the disposition of the
troops at the time of the termination of the conflict (Ganguly 2001).
The exogenous dimension of violent thawing also frequently involves third-party
intervention. The USA has been playing a crucial role in the brokering process in crises
under the shadow of nuclear escalation. In the 1999 Kargil War, the conflict re-froze
with the help of the USA: as the Pakistani forces were reeling from the Indian counter-
offensive, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought US intercession in the conflict. Unlike
in the past, when the USA had adopted an equivocal stance during Indo-Pakistani
conflicts, on this occasion, President Clinton forthrightly condemned Pakistansrolein
precipitating the war. Facing a military defeat on the ground and confronting a
diplomatic impasse, Pakistan was forced to accept a cease-fire without any Indian
concessions. The war ended without any change in the territorial status quo. However,
it may have convinced the Pakistani military establishment that resorting to conven-
tional war would not enable it to further its goal of seizing Kashmir. To that end, it may
have concluded that other strategies might prove necessary in order to enable Pakistan
to further its goal of undermining Indias control over a significant portion of the
disputed state (cf. Tellis et al. 2001;Kapur2003).
The latest developments in the conflict dynamics saw terrorists associated with
Jaish-e-Mohammed in September 2016 attacking an Indian Army base in Uri in the
state of Jammu and Kashmir (Rashid and Singh 2016). Previous Indian governments
had mostly chosen not to retaliate in the wake of these provocations. However, Prime
Minister Modi chose to launch an unprecedented retaliatory attack. Consequently, India
conducted surgical strikes against terrorist hideouts across Pakistans LOC in Kashmir.
This was the first time an Indian government publicly acknowledged and, indeed,
heralded such operations (Bengali 2016). Modis decisions to call off ongoing talks and
then militarily retaliate against Pakistan marked a significant departure from the
practices of previous governments. These actions demonstrate a new resolve in dealing
with Pakistans periodic depredations and it appears reasonable to surmise that the
present government is unlikely to return to earlier policies.
Potential for conflict withering
Another type of dynamic that can eventually contribute to conflict transformation is
conflict withering. As noted in Smetana and Ludvik (this issue), conflict withering is
Ban external dynamic that nevertheless changes the importance of the issues at stake. In
contrast to both types of thawing, withering lacks the original intention to transform the
conflict; instead, withering is an unintentional by-product of some other development.^
In the case of the South Asian frozen conflict, this external development would have to
make the core issue between India and Pakistanthe territorial dispute over Jammu
and Kashmirno longer central to the mutual relationship. This can come as a result of
an (external) shock or a more gradual development that would decrease the salience of
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the Kashmir dispute in the relations between the two countries. In this section, we
firstly outline possible pathways for conflict withering but then argue why it is unlikely
to see the conflict wither in the near future.
At least two pathways hypothetically leading to conflict withering can be
sketched out. The first might involve a shock that changes the expectations of the
decision-making elite within Pakistan or India and thereby leads them to re-
calculate their strategy toward the other state. Such a shock is exogenous because
it does not unfold from the very core of the conflict, but it may exhibit some
endogenous characteristics, too, evolving from the regional and domestic politics of
the two countries. To illustrate how this might look, it is useful to realize that such a
shock with conflict transformation potential occurredif not on any other occa-
sionin the aftermath of the 1971 war, which significantly influenced the political
situation in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army, for all practical purposes, was discredited
because of its ignominious role in the East Pakistan crisis (Ganguly 2001). Bhutto,
as the new president of the country, could have seized the moment to consolidate
democracy in the country. This could have contributed to shrinking the profile of
the military within the Pakistani polity, to the reduction of Pakistans hostility
toward India, and to the moderation of mutual hostilities. This, however, did not
The other and more likely road that might eventually end the rivalry may be the
increasingly divergent trajectories of the two countries. Pakistanseconomicgrowth
simply cannot keep pace with that of India and Pakistan may continue to have problems
with sustaining its domestic governing capacities and keeping the state functional (cf.
Paul 2014). Nor, for that matter, despite its reliance on China, can it sustain military
expenditures that would enable it to take on its more capable neighbor in another
conventional conflict. It can, of course, continue with its asymmetric war strategy.
However, it is possible to imagine a scenario in which even such asymmetric capacities
would be decreasing (in relative or absolute terms). As a result, the costs that Pakistan
would impose on India would mostly be in the form of an irritant rather than amounting
to a compelling external security threat. The two parties may not reconcile, but the
rivalry, for all practical purposes, will simply cease to be manifested.
The involvement of various other issues, actors, and dynamics can influence the
potential for conflict withering. Now, the conflict is not only centered around the
originally crucial issue of the territorial control of Jammu and Kashmir as a symbol
of Pakistans and Indias state-making projects, but it maintains a complex character.
The original core of the conflict has gotten enmeshed with local politics and demands,
Islamic radicalism, developmental issues as well as with new connections to great
power rivalry (Schild 2015). Especially since the late 1980s, demands by local ethnic
and religious groups have significantly contributed to the conflictsdynamics(Anant
2009). The original Indo-Pakistani conflict focused on Jammu and Kashmir has very
much changed into a conflict in which various local or transnational actors are
involved. Moreover, links to great power politics have not disappeared. We can
illustrate this by the recent tension between India, China, and Pakistan caused by the
development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a project closely tied
to Chinas grand strategic One Belt One Road Initiative. The initiative involves
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and is seen as a political and security issue by Indias
foreign policy makers (cf. Singh 2015).
India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir dispute: unpacking the dynamics of...
Author's personal copy
It is possible to argue that the original motivations of both Pakistan and India
connected with Kashmir as a symbol of their state-making projects weakened over
time, but it did not cause the conflict to wither. The break-up of Pakistan in 1971
demonstrated that religion alone could not be the basis of nation-building in South
Asia. Even as it undermined Pakistans irredentist claim to Kashmir, it did not give up
its claims due to reasons of domestic politics (Ganguly 2001). About a decade later,
Indias normative claims to Kashmir also declined as secularism increasingly came
under attack within the Indian political context (Ganguly 2001). However, it was later
in the same decade of the 1980s that local Kashmiri actors started to affect the conflict
with their autonomist (and even secessionist) agenda.
Hence, while some of the aspects of the conflict may start to wither or diminish at a
certain point, there seem to be many others that will continue to propel the conflicts
dynamics and will likely reintroduce the previously withering aspects in one way or
another later on. Due to this multifaceted and entangled character, the conflict is
difficult to resolve. Or, in other words, the frozen and long-lasting nature of the conflict
has contributed to making it more complicated and less likely to wither.
While Kashmir continues to bleed, it has locked India and Pakistan into a prolonged
conflict comprised of cease-fires, peaceful negotiations, violent uprisings, and crises
with a nuclear dimension. In this article, we provided a short case study in order to
probe the plausibility of the Bfrozen conflict^concept on the empirical case of Indo-
Pakistani rivalry. There are indeed some unique features of this particular case in
comparison with other cases examined in this special issue of Asia Europe Journal;
perhaps most prominently, the existence of two nuclear-armed rivals. However, as we
demonstrated in this article, the South Asian conflict does correspond to the definition
of frozen conflicts introduced in Smetana and Ludvik (this issue), including the
protracted nature of the conflict, the experience of an initial war, the absence of stable
peace, an unresolved core issue that remains in the forefront of mutual relations, the
salience of the conflict in domestic discourses, and the looming threat of violence
In the article, we also used the dynamic conceptualization of frozen conflicts to
examine the conflict dynamics in this Indo-Pakistani case. We identified two main
drivers of Bpeaceful thawing^dynamics: domestic politics in the two countries and
external pressure from third parties. Moreover, we argued that there are four major
Bspoilers^that prevent the Indo-Pakistani frozen conflict from transformation through
peaceful thawing: actions of local violent non-state actors that thrive on the Bfrozen
conflict economy,^public attitudes in India that oppose a conciliatory approach to the
Kashmir issue, distrust between the political and military leaderships in Pakistan, and
the changing character of the indigenous Kashmir uprising. In addition, we focused on
two main drivers that account for the periodic episodes of Bviolent thawing^of the
conflict: the actions of violent non-state actors and the parochial interests and initiatives
of domestic actors. We also discussed the logic of stability-instability paradox, which
functions as a Bgreat stabilizer^on the level of all-out war, yet simultaneously allows
repeated escalations at the lower levels of violence. Finally, we outlined prospective
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pathways for conflict withering, with respect to the possibility of an external shock that
would alter the expectations of domestic decision-makers and the increasingly asym-
metric trajectories and capabilities of the two countries. We conclude that despite the
ongoing, dynamic developments on the ground, the possibility of conflict transforma-
tion through any of the suggested pathwayspeaceful thawing, violent thawing, and
witheringremains unlikely in the near future.
Acknowledgements We would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive comments and
Funding information We acknowledge funding by the Charles University Research Centre programme
UNCE/HUM/028 (Peace Research Center Prague/Faculty of Social Sciences) and by the internal research
scheme VVZ 57-04 of Metropolitan University Prague.
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