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, India’sstanceona
resolution remains focused on a bilateral solution. For example, the spokesperson of
India’s 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 latter’s 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
India’s decision-making circles that Sharif, though the legally elected prime minister,
was either unwilling or unable to rein in terrorist forces operating from Pakistan’ssoil.
Second, the sense of Kashmir’s 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 India’s 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
S. Ganguly et al.