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The Kashmir conflict from a neo-realistic point of view

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2002 16 Seiten


After the dreadful tragedy that happened in New York on 11 September, the world had to redefine the extent of terrorism. In this context there is one conflict that is gradually turning over to be an explosive powder keg. It is the Indo-Pakistan conflict about the area called “Kashmir”. Ever since the British colonial power ended in 1947 and the Muslim League demanded the partition of India and Pakistan, there has been a smouldering conflict between Pakistan and India about ‘the bone of contention’ Kashmir. Pakistan and India have always been irreconcilably divided in the most important aspects such as religion, culture, economic interests and the social system. From neo-realistic point of view, this conflict bears numerous factors that gave rise to it and influenced its development. The underlying assumption is that the problems at issue were predictable and, hence, maybe could have been fought against earlier and more determined.

Having a look at the common history of India and Pakistan, it has obviously always been a conflict between Muslims and Hindus and, on the other hand, between different cultures within these confessions. It just all turned out to be explosive when, they had to decide about India’s independence in 1947. Although these negotiations were without doubt a risky question of gaining and loosing power, the negotiation partners found a reasonable and ostensibly peaceful solution by splitting British-India in the Hindu part of India and the northern, Muslim part, from then on called Pakistan. However, they could not have suspected that they sowed the seed of a terrible future conflict between the two powers-to-be.

The problem that arose were princely states that had a Hindu population but a Muslim ruler, such as Junagadh and Hyderabad, and vice versa, such as Kashmir and Jammu. Whereas solutions for Junagadh[1] and Hyderabad[2] were quickly found, the situation turned out completely different in Kashmir and Jammu, which had a Hindu ruler but a predominantly Muslim population. In addition, Kashmir and Jammu were contiguous to both India and Pakistan but acceding to neither, which made it almost impossible for both parties to find a just solution. Consequently, it was said that a ruler can’t decide on his own to which part it should be acceded. Therefore, Kashmir’s population should decide about its future by means of a “free and impartial plebiscite” (cf. Brown, p.189) which was eventually not feasible due to the anarchic conditions within the whole region and the clashes between Indian and Pakistani forces. From a Pakistani viewpoint, the arrival of Pakistani forces was a direct result of India’s forcible occupation of Kashmir whereas, from an Indian viewpoint, t he plebiscite could not have been held due to Pakistan’s refusal to withdraw their troops and raiders after their “tribal invasion” (cf. Embassy of India). The question of who unleashed the gory face[3] of state terrorism first has not clearly been answered to date.

From neo-realistic point of view, the underlying assumption is that different versions of a common history and, hence, the origin of the conflict, can influence the so-called “security dilemma”[4]. Talking about Kashmir and Jammu, the situation is quite tricky as the partition was unjust from both perspectives. Both parties did not want to endanger their own people living in that area nor surrender and give away their land. In addition, the newly independent India was now craving for prestige and didn’t want to lose her face in the ‘eyes of the world’. Thus, she wanted to demonstrate her increased self-confidence and power to grant security for her ‘brethren’. In other words, India took advantage of her superior position which caused reactions from the Pakistanis, who were actually in the right due to the vast majority of Muslims living in that area. Nevertheless, Pakistan was in an inferior position as the newly born state already struggled with building up a government and getting the anarchic uproars in Pakistan under control. As India was aggressive anyway, this situation actually tempted Pakistan to start a surprise attack. As a result, ever since the unjust partition a mutual distrust between India and Pakistan has existed. By the same token, the very act of partition was the official recognition of the existence of two nations in India, Hindus and Muslims. By agreeing to the partition, India and Pakistan admitted that these “two nations” (J. Nehru) were so fundamentally different from each other in all respects that they could not exist in a single territorial unit any longer.

Consequently, the secular state India, which comprised a number of states based on a multiplicity of identities and religions, faced the problematic decision to integrate the various communities without offending their religious integrity. Bearing in mind that in India the vast majority of 83 % are Hindus and just 11% Muslims, whereas, in sharp contrast, in Pakistan the vast majority of 97% confess themselves to the Islam[5] it was predictable that every potential decision could potentially lead to increasing nationalism, fundamentalism and mounting tensions. Although the rough partition was working for the moment, especially in Kashmir and Jammu the situation looked different. Comparing the distribution of the population in Kashmir based on religion between 1941 and 1981, you can see a vast change. In 1941 just 23% of the population living in Jammu and Kashmir were non-Muslims but 77 % Muslims. Nevertheless, the Muslims were “treated as second class citizens by their tyrannical and repressive Hindu ruler and hardly any Muslim occupied a position of any importance in the State” (Khan, p.38). As a consequence in 1947, after the occupation of India, the Muslim majority has already decreased. The former majority of Muslims shrank to 64% and the Hindu population rose to 32%. (cf. Rahman, p.31-33). From an objective viewpoint, those Kashmiri Muslims who left Kashmir were anxious about the oppressive actions within the State whereas those who stayed in Kashmir became more and more radical. In other words, when it came to the partition of Pakistan and India the conflict in Kashmir was, hence, a foregone conclusion[6]. From a Pakistani viewpoint, Kashmir and Jammu belonged to Pakistan because of the majority of Muslims living in that area. In addition Kashmir has always been an integral part of the basic concept of Pakistan[7]. In other words, it has always been a Muslim struggle for freedom against the Hindu and the British domination. The strongest resistance came from the Hindu Maharadscha ruler at that time, Sir Hari Singh, who eventually decided against Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. The Maharadscha, who controlled the whole military and civil administration in Kashmir, thus took advantage of his power by deciding a non-accession to either state. As a result of that demagogic decision, the clashes increased and Muslims as well as Hindus fled from Kashmir’s terrorism. India’s militant intervention was just a question of time.


[1] Junagadh, a tiny state in Kathiawar (Gujarat) surrounded by Indian territory, was occupied and they let a
plebiscite decide about its future.

[2] Hyderabad, an area in the heart of India, also acceded to India after increasing disorder and the rising influence
of paramilitary Muslim extremists forced the Indian Government to move in troops in a “police action” to
restore law and order. (Hardgrave: p.41)

[3] gruesome reports of human rights violations such as killing, rape, loot and plunder of Kashmiris by the Indian
security forces as well as Pakistani raiders have been reported by reliable sources.

[4] saying that “after the collapse of a multi-ethnic regime a lack of security arises that endangers the political and
social security of this area. In a situation like that it often occurs that what one group does to enhance one’s
security, causes reactions that, in the end, can make this group less secure” (Posen, p.104).

[5] with a majority of 4/5 being Sunni Muslims (Microsoft Encarta + Fischer’s Weltalmanach)

[6] In regard of the idea of a religious community “Umma” in the Islamic world the claim of a national state also
remains questionable

[7] The derivation of Pakistan’s name: P was taken from Punjab, A from Afgan, (the Nort-West Frontier
Province), K from Kashmir, S from Sind and tan from the last syllable of Baluchistan. (Wallbank, p.195)


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Institution / Hochschule
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster – Institute for Political Science



Titel: The Kashmir conflict from a neo-realistic point of view