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Indian-Pakistani Relations and the Kashmir Dilemma Research Paper


Liberalism is a theory of international relations that defines how world systems interplay. This theory insists that the strong relations among nations are gradually eliminating national interests as well as minimizing the significance of military power. Following the high rate of globalization and an unparalleled increase in global trade, states were compelled to abandon cheap power politics when deciding issues. The politics of ethnicity has been the defining factor in the South Asian region.

This move has led to the rise of ethnic parties that pursue the selection of candidates based on ethnic identities. Unfortunately, this model of electing leaders creates differentiated ethnic coalitions across regions. However, this paper offers a discussion about the Indian-Pakistan relations to shed light on the Kashmir Dilemma based on liberalist approach. This paper will also show that politics of ethnicity has magnified regional differences and poverty.

India and Pakistan are countries that are known for the persisting rivalry. Mistrust is the main attribute that governs international relations between these two countries. However, the security functions of these states are realist-based. Collaboration between these states is complex to achieve and is sought with extreme care.

In an effort to eliminate the existing impediments to cooperation and introduce a liberal structure, India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries formed the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) during the 1980s1. Borrowing from the advancement of the European Union, the SAARC targeted to facilitate regional cooperation and build relationships based on liberal views.

Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the subsequent end of the Cold War, many observers predicted a liberal security structure and strong cooperation among the South Asian states2. Nonetheless, looking at the past decades, it is evident that liberalism is yet to make an impact on states such as India and Pakistan. Contrary, realist approach seems to have gained much strength as it can be proved in their unshakable military forces.

In this light, this paper will emphasize that, rather than spending endlessly on fighting each other, both being relatively poor countries they are better off cooperating and allowing the people of Kashmir to decide their destiny even if it was to gain independence. The purpose of this paper is to interweave the liberal claims into the context of Indian-Pakistan security structure and examine why the significance of liberalism remains unexploited. This paper is structured in various ways.

First, it explains the liberal views in the context of International Relations. Second, it explores the liberal arguments with a close reference to the case of India and Pakistan. Third, it discusses reasons why the relevance of liberalism has remained insignificant despite enduring incentives for collaboration. Fourth, it explores what entails the SAARC in relation to overcoming realist viewpoints in the region. Lastly, the paper gives a summary of the key points and findings developed within the paper.

Liberalism views

Liberal strategies to international relations are also referred to as approaches of complex interdependence. Liberalists reckon that the world is a harsh and unfriendly zone, but the repercussions of using force or military power are detrimental3. The consequences of applying military power undermine the benefits of peaceful negotiations that are deemed more powerful in the contemporary world. Thus, international collaboration is in the best interest of every state. Liberalism also believes that military power is not the sole type of power. On the contrary, economic and social powers have a tremendous influence too in the world affairs. The modern trend in global affairs manifests that exercising economic power can be more efficient than relying on military force.

Liberalism believes that different states hold varying primary interests, but there are defining moments that push the states to withdraw such interests for the sake of the larger community. However, these milestones can be achieved if the international regulations and organizations assist in promoting cooperation, integrity, trust, and growth. For instance, the relations embedded in the EU demonstrate a strategy of complex interdependence.

The United States often express major disagreements with its Asian and European counterparts based on policy and trade, but it is nearly unthinkable for the U.S to engage military power against its trade partners. On the contrary, the U.S pursues liberal strategies like giving incentives or imposing sanctions as a way of meeting its policy goals.

Liberal view of the Indian-Pakistan case

Even though the security structure in India and Pakistan is relatively idealistic in nature, current trends suggest some cooperative and liberal factors. This assertion implies that liberalism might be gradually gaining momentum across these states. Efforts by the SAARC aim to facilitate cooperative security via diplomacy, conflict resolution, and avoidance. Evaluating India and Pakistan engagement since the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War, scholar such as Pai identifies that the relations between the two states were extensive and focused on nuclear weapons and Kashmir case4. Liberals predict that developing interest for democratization and economic liberalization in India and Pakistan present the likelihood for regional interdependence.

Such interdependence is viewed to manifest positive implications towards redefining the regional security structure. Through the spearheading of the SAARC, cooperative security is a growing trend between India and Pakistan.

Continued vulnerability of India and Pakistan particularly after the Cold War defines some of the major approaches that might have induced cooperation. Based on a realist viewpoint, it could be argued that India and Pakistan assumed a self-help model to solve those vulnerabilities. On the other hand, based on a liberalist point of view, this vulnerability has had a positive outcome and can facilitate cooperation. Cooperation and trust building strategies between India and Pakistan have become inevitable after the many rivalries.

This move is essential to suspend the enduring drift and contain the socio-economic rambling, and security situation in India and Pakistan. Further, India has subscribed to policies that motivate new ways of relations across the South Asia region continually and unilaterally. For example, in April 1997-March 1998, the incumbent Prime Minister I.K Gujral spearheaded policy reforms to facilitate incorporation and cooperation with its South Asian neighbors5. These reforms focused on ensuring an inviting South Asian environment for development, peace, and security.

An opportunity for cooperation emerged during the 1990 Kashmir crisis. This crisis indicated the rise of a basic joint nuclear prevention course between India and Pakistan. These efforts were later backed by their open nuclear tests carried in May 1998. Even though realists might argue that those nuclear tests demonstrated a formidable level of their security intensity, the decisive confidence harnessed from this event might have provoked the two nations to seek wider bilateral and global ties.

Pai suggests that the Indo-Pakistani reconciliation and peace efforts effected in 2003 prove that past events have presented platforms for greater cooperation between the two states6. Even though the peace process continues to experience barriers such as the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, confidence building has resumed between the two states.


The growing need for democratization across the world compelled the South Asian states to introduce democratically elected regimes. Consequently, the developing democratization in India and Pakistan is likely to bring a positive influence on the two state’s security order7. Democratization will facilitate integrity and accountability within the local institutions. This progress will translate into a positive influence on the two states causing extensive economic ties and regional integration. When states exercise democracy, they create a good operational environment that allows economic liberalization and interdependence.

Due to the many vulnerabilities experienced by India and Pakistan after the Cold War, these two states began to pioneer for economic liberalization and trade reform policies in an effort to ameliorate for the losses experienced in the South Asia region. The achievement of a South Asia Free Trade Agreement in April 1993 under the stewardship of the SAARC was proving that these two states were attaining economic liberalization8. Liberals claim that due to the increased interdependence resulting from the liberalized markets will make collaborative security more desirable.

The Indian economy experienced a critical balance of payment challenges following the Kashmir crisis. The Indian government was compelled to reinforce market reforms that have led to phenomenal growth in its economy.

Recently, economic liberalization seems to have reshaped India’s security interests. Even without addressing the enduring territorial conflicts, India and Pakistan moved against such odds to establish economic relationship bearing in mind that such ties would serve their national interests better than keeping frozen economic relations. The growing campaigns by the international community to promote democracy and political liberation have led to transformations, which have a spillover effect on Indian-Pakistan relations. Even though the progress does not imply significant improvements, Asia’s fascination on realist approaches has significantly reduced.

Regional cooperation

Following the structural constraints of cooperation due to territorial disputes, India and Pakistan participated in the formation of the SAARC to ameliorate its influence. The Kashmir crisis exacerbated disputes amongst these two states leading to disruption of the SAARC’s agenda. Consequently, in the last decade, the SAARC has come up with an incredible framework that can ensure prosperity, stability, and cooperation if implemented.

Given that India and Pakistan are poised to evolve in terms of political economy, the two states will be compelled to shed their individual interests and start implementing policies that nurture cooperation. However, the SAARC should play a vital role in forging sustainable relations between these states. Ideally, the roadmap to the adoption of economic and social power exists in the framework of economic and other non-security collaborations.

Despite the prominent realist organization, there are profound mutual interests and liberal aspects in the two states. Besides, there are strong incentives to replace military power with economic and social power. Military power has been observed as having the potential to cause further destruction and lead to economic degradation.

There is a need for regional leadership and abandoning of military power. Good leadership and adoption of socio-economic power that allows peaceful negotiations is inevitable. India and Pakistan are among the poorest states in the world. This fact demands well-coordinated economic collaboration at the bilateral level given that individual national approaches have not eradicated poverty. Similarly, the increase of terrorism is a major security concern for India and Pakistan.

This heightened insecurity demands inter-state policy coordination and combined efforts to handle the issue. However, it is in the interest of the two nations that they suspend their individual interests to cooperate with each other in addressing regional insecurity. Based on liberalist view, post-Kashmir environment, defined by the surging wave of terrorist attacks and interdependence, has made collaborative security vital.9 This aspect implies that liberal approaches may gain momentum in the near future.

What restricts liberalism in India and Pakistan?

The main reason for the limited significance of liberalism in India and Pakistan is the presence of strong ethnic politics and military crisis that worsen the regional security dilemma. Security dilemma is highly attributable to territorial conflicts that have created a loophole towards regional security cooperation. Since India and Pakistan “advance strategies of power balancing and self-help, it becomes hard to cooperate towards ensuring regional security”10.

The main variable that makes cooperation difficult between the two states is the structural roots and region’s political geography. The inter-state rivalry between India and Pakistan emanates from the region’s political structure. For a long time, the minority communities in South Asian states have been sidelined from power privileges. The distribution of national resources is ethnically based leaving the minority groups marginalized. This divisive environment makes cooperation difficult to achieve within states. When cooperation is difficult within a state, it is equally hard to prosper in regionally.

The historical demarcation of South Asian states “led to the intra-regional migration of people, values, cultures, and religions”11. The political boundaries separated people of the same culture to live on distinct sides of political demarcations. These changes meant that various minority groups were pushed to India leaving the majority in Pakistan. The implication of this transformation is that any conflicts affecting a minority group in India might raise concerns of the fellow majority in Pakistan. This situation has potential to cause inter-state conflicts.

The demarcation of the South Asia in 1947 still influences the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. For instance, the Kashmir dilemma is an evidence of the 1947 partition and continues to prevent their bilateral relations. Besides, the Kashmir disputes have led to an eruption of more territorial disputes that would otherwise not been established. The conflicts over the Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek reinforce the bilateral security dilemma by exacerbating inter-state hostility12.

The security perceptions between India and Pakistan is viewed as divergent and having clashing security priorities. India’s key security threat emanate from sources beyond the region and thus employs approaches that take the entire region as its legitimate security base. Contrary, Pakistan views these Indian security approaches to be a potential threat to sovereignty. Therefore, Pakistan pursues approaches of seeking allies from powers out the region in an effort to lower India’s dominance. This approach increases tensions in the region instead of bringing the much-needed peace and cooperation.

SAARC’s growing insignificance

The SAARC was developed based on a liberal perspective. Cooperation was intended to begin in economic and non-disputable matters. Such cooperation was expected to have a spillover effect towards achieving substantial regional cooperation13. The main objective was to ensure peace and cooperation within the region. Economic growth was viewed as the main accelerator to eradicate poverty and the wellbeing of the people of South Asia.

Currently, these conflicts offer the SAARC an opportunity to adopt a liberal approach to ensure cooperation in the region. The end of the Cold War offered the South Asian states an opportunity to adapt to the new global standards. They had to change their reliance on military power and adopt the socio-economic model of growth. However, this expectation did not happen, and the SAARC was undermined in favor of the power-balancing model.

Unless significant changes happen in the relations between India and Pakistan, it will be hard for these countries to benefit from the international community. The Indo-Pakistan hostility needs the intervention of the international community in a bid to ensure that the SAARC acquires the relevance that it deserves. Based on the Kashmir crisis and subsequent hostility between the two states, it suffices to conclude that military power cannot allow peaceful relations to prosper.

Therefore, the SAARC should borrow from the EU strategies of socio-economic power to pursue inter-state relations. Such strategies might include issuing economic sanctions to ensure that the states feel the pressure to comply with policies that pursue cooperation. This assertion suggests that India and Pakistan have no other option rather than assume confidence and security building measures. Unless these two states quit the politics of ethnic division, poverty will continue to hit hard at a time when human welfare remains an important topic in the international affairs. Given the complexity of the Kashmir crisis, it is likely that territorial conflicts will persist, but such conflicts should not interfere with economic and non-contentious bilateral relationships14.


In spite of the persisting demand for a liberal structure by both the international community and the South Asian States, liberalism in all perspectives remains insignificant for different reasons. For instance, despite its great capability, the SAARC is largely undermined by the individual states. Consequently, the contemporary and future projections of the liberal security structure in India and Pakistan is unpredictable, and its fate lays hostage to the inter-state rivalry.

India’s ongoing economic resurgence and Asian-based economic liberalization reforms can transform the region’s relationship in the near future. Undoubtedly, cross-regional exchange through trade is extremely low and is defined by the high level experienced in both India and Pakistan. Even though this condition is discouraging, massive transformations can be achieved if Indo-Pakistan bilateral ties are promoted. Furthermore, politics of ethnicity need to be abandoned since they provoke tension among the minority who in most cases gain support from fellow cross-border communities.

Following many years of trial relations between the two states, there have been positive indications that intra-state trade is possible. Maintaining trade ties would remove the major barriers that deter the prosperity of the relations between the two states. Combined efforts towards Indo-Pakistani relations will lead to liberal security structure in the South Asian region. However, rather than spending endlessly on fighting each other, both being relatively poor countries they are better off cooperating and allowing the people of Kashmir to decide their destiny even if it was to gain independence.


Cawood, Ian. “Liberalism and the ‘New’ Politics.” Parliamentary History 30, no. 3 (2011): 428-435.

Chandra, Kanchan. “The Transformation of Ethnic Politics in India: The Decline of Congress and the Rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Hoshiarpur.” The Journal of Asian Studies 59 no. 1 (2000): 26-27.

Javaid, Umbreen, and Marium Kamal. “Security Dilemma in South Asia.” Journal of Political Studies 22, no. 1 (2015): 115-127.

Looney, Robert, and Robert McNab. “Pakistan’s Economic and Security Dilemma: Expanded Defense Expenditures and the Relative Governance Syndrome.” Contemporary South Asia16, no. 1 (2008): 63-82.

Pai, Sudha. “New Social Engineering Agenda of the Bahujan Samaj Party: Implications for State and National Politics.” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 32, no. 3 (2009): 338-353.

Shrestha, Gopal. “Security Community in South Asia: India–Pakistan.” Contemporary South Asia 21, no. 4 (2013): 476-477.


  1. Umbreen Javaid and Marium Kamal, “Security Dilemma in South Asia,” Journal of Political Studies 22, no. 1 (2015): 122.
  2. Gopal Shrestha, “Security Community in South Asia: India–Pakistan,” Contemporary South Asia 21, no. 4 (2013): 476.
  3. Kanchan Chandra, “The Transformation of Ethnic Politics in India: The Decline of Congress and the Rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Hoshiarpur,” The Journal of Asian Studies 59, no. 1 (2000): 26.
  4. Sudha Pai, “New Social Engineering Agenda of the Bahujan Samaj Party: Implications for State and National Politics,” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 32, no. 3 (2009): 340.
  5. Robert Looney and Robert McNab, “Pakistan’s Economic and Security Dilemma: Expanded Defense Expenditures and the Relative Governance Syndrome,” Contemporary South Asia 16, no. 1 (2008): 70.
  6. Pai, 342.
  7. Looney and McNab, 64.
  8. Chandra, 72.
  9. Shrestha, 477.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Javaid and Kamal, 116.
  13. Ian Cawood, “Liberalism and The ‘New’ Politics,” Parliamentary History 30, no. 3 (2011): 433.
  14. Ibid, 430.
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