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The India-Pakistan Conflict (An Enduring Rivalry)

Book Report: Ali Raza Jalbani (M.Phil - International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad)


Editor: T.V Paul

Publisher: Cambridge University Press (2005)

Introduction :

The India-Pakistan conflict is one of the most enduring but less focused rivalries of the world. Even the world system has transformed from a bipolar to a unipolar system and different countries of the world are leading towards integration but this rivalry is still taking to the new heights. Like many other enduring rivalries of the world, the Indo-Pak rivalry is also a greater challenge that the world of the political and IR thinkers need to ponder on.

T.V Paul, in this regard, has tried to give a sight through compiling and editing this book to the issue remaining in the domain of the discipline of International Relations.

This book provides compelling application of a range of International Relations and comparative theories to the India-Pakistan’s enduring rivalry.

Subsequently, it has used theoretical lenses to analyse the conflict and has given a comprehensive discussion on causes, implications and future prospects of the resolution of the issue.

Moreover, this book is divided into four parts which contain eleven chapters. The first part is based on the introduction which T.V Paul himself has written. This chapter discusses the causes the Indo-Pak rivalry and in the latter part provides brief introduction of the entire volume. The second part is, ‘Theories of enduring rivalry and the South Asian conflict’, third part analyses ‘The roots of the India-Pakistan conflict’ and in last, the editor and William Hogg have concluded the volume.

Theories of Enduring Rivalry and the South Asian Conflict

After the first chapter of introduction, in which T.V Paul has covered almost every aspect that has been discussed in the book, this important part analyses the existing literature related to enduring rivalries and tries to apply its results to the Indo-Pak conflict. It contains four chapters written different authors. Diehl, Goertz and Saeedi have argued in their chapter while talking on the origin of enduring rivalries in general, that ‘political shocks’ are necessary condition for enduring rivalries.

In the same manner, Indo-Pak rivalry has witnessed political shocks since the very beginning. Joint independence of both the states was itself a political shock in this conflict. Further, they have also discussed all four wars fought between both the states and have done a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the military equipment of both the states throughout their war history.

Likewise, John Vasquez, in the third chapter, has analysed the rivalry by employing the classical deterrence theory. He has tried to figure out whether nuclear deterrence would help ensure peace between both the states or not.

Vasquez has, therefore, compared Pak-India nuclear deterrence to that of the Soviet-US and reached to the conclusion that there were different factors in case of the latter than the former.

Most importantly, US-Soviet didn’t have any territorial dispute which is the bone of contention in Indo-Pak conflict.

Furthermore, in the third chapter, Daniel Geller has emphasized on the structural factors that have shaped the conflict, e.g. Kashmir issue, military power show across the border, absence of consistent democratic values on Pakistan’s side, and lack of trust between both the states.

He states that structural forces have the tendency to shape and mold the decisions (but it does not determine them entirely) in the rivalries. In the last chapter of this book, Russel J. Leng opined that stakeholders are realists in their behaviours.

On both sides, loss or gain is being measured in terms of realpolitik. In sum, this entire part focuses on the theoretical models with reference to the enduring rivalries in general and Indo-Pak rivalry in particular.

Roots of the India–Pakistan Conflict

This part of the book contains five chapters which cover the origin, root causes of the prolongation of the rivalry and the role of identities of the states in the conflict. The first chapter of this part (overall 6th), written by Ashok Kapur is based on the role of major powers of the world politics in prolonging Indo-Pak rivalry. Pakistan, since its inception, inclined to the US in order to counter India, whereas, India left NAM following growing ties of Pakistan with the US and China.

It then decided to join USSR to balance her opponent. However, for Kapur, it was Pakistan’s geo-strategic location that lured two great powers to her.

In the next chapter, Saira Khan has focused on the role that nuclear weapons have played in the prolongation of the rivalry. She states that “Nuclear weapons are notable equalizers and as such the weaker power with nuclear arms in the dyad is much more confident in the military sphere and can trigger crises to make possible short-term tactical gains.”

She thinks that the induction of nuclear weapons in this rivalry has lessened the chances of full-scale war; therefore, states have opted out the option of compromise.

Khan, quoting the words of Abdul Qadeer Khan, adds that nuclear weapons are the weapons of peace.
Additionally, Vali Nasr has taken the aspect of identities in this rivalry into account in his chapter.

He says that national identities have also proved to be an important factor in the endurance of Indo-Pak conflict.

The rise of Islamism in Pakistan and Hinduism in India has played an important role in shaping and molding their foreign policies.

BJP’s rhetoric has always remained Pakistan centric, whereas, on Pakistan’s side, several religious political parties base their agenda on anti-India narrative.

Importantly, he has mentioned that secularism has slowly and gradually been replaced with Hindu nationalism.

The next chapter is written by Stephen M. Saideman.

He notes that irredentism and self-destructive behavior go hand in hand all over the world and South Asia is of no exception. Saideman says that irredentism in the domestic politics of Pakistan whereas Indian domestic politics is aimed at anti-irredentism as the latter is not willing to do any territorial concession to any state at any cost.

He adds that it is not only the case with these two countries but there are several other countries like Germany and Hungary, Armenia, Croatia and Serbia and Somalia and Ethiopia, that have followed the same path of what he has labeled ‘self-destruction.’

The writer sees moderation at domestic level and extensive economic cooperation as a way forward to stave off war like situation.

Lastly, Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay and Julian Schofield have highlighted institutional causes of the rivalry. They see military and hybrid regimes as war prone whereas for them, the democratic governments are constrained by institutional structures. The authors have mentioned that Pakistan’s military and hybrid regimes have always propagated rivalry owing to their war proneness.

They create structural and normative distortions in the decision-making process for their own interests. While mentioning the structural flaws on the Indian side, Trembley and Schofield referred to Indian governments’ gradual actions to put an end to Kashmir’s special status.

Article 370 of the constitution (used to) provide Kashmir an autonomous status which was supposed to be respected but almost every Indian government has tried abrogate it (this article has completely been revoked in 2019). This act, according to the authors, is being carried out due to Hindu chauvinist elements. Besides, they suggest that democracy on both sides would foster a less confrontational consensus as compared to the military or hybrid regimes.


The last part of the book consist concluding chapter “South Asia’s embedded conflict: understanding the India–Pakistan rivalry.”

In this chapter, T.V Paul and William Hogg have tried to evaluate and conclude the previous chapters. Discussing origin of the conflict, authors noted the factors behind the persistence of the rivalry. Meanwhile, they opined that conflict resolution requires favourable condition and responsible leadership.

US-China relations, East-West Germany rapprochement, US-Soviet détente and Egypt-Israel agreement were all happened because of the efforts of the leaders who used favourable conditions to reduce tension.

Furthermore, the authors say that India-Pakistan rivalry has failed to get its due share of attention in academic literature on enduring rivalries and protracted conflicts. Despite the fact that it is the only rivalry remained between the two nuclear powers.

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