Former American President Bill Clinton referred to Kashmir as the most dangerous place on earth. In 1999 nuclear-armed powers India and Pakistan fought a war over Kashmir, and again in 2002 they came close to another. The Kashmir dispute represents one of the world s oldest and most intractable conflicts, having befuddled policymakers since the Partition of the subcontinent in 1947. Author Arvin Bahl attempts to analyze this conflict in the context of international relations theory, drawing on a variety of sources, including interviews with leading figures of the Indian and Pakistani establishments.
Bahl argues that the question of the Kashmir dispute is really the question of why the liberation of the Kashmir Valley from Indian rule has been a foremost Pakistani national interest since the Partition. Realism, the dominant theory of international relations, argues that regardless of era, region, ideology or domestic politics, states will behave in the same ways when faced with similar situations in the international system, namely they will try to maximize the state s interests. Yet, Pakistan s quest for control of the Kashmir Valley represents a case in which a country s foreign policy cannot be explained by realism, and realism s main assumption of the state as a rational actor appears to be violated. The Kashmir Valley has little strategic importance to Pakistan, Pakistan has almost no chance of obtaining it against a much stronger power that dismembered it in a previous war and its economy is being destroyed by military confrontation with India, which also threatens its security.
This study attempts to explain the puzzle of Pakistan s seemingly irrational policy behavior on Kashmir by developing a framework combining liberal and constructivist approaches. Constructivists emphasize the importance of ideas, ideologies and identities when observing how states behave. The ideology that Pakistan was founded on, the two-nation theory, makes ending Indian rule over the Kashmir Valley of utmost national interest. For Pakistan to concede that a Muslim majority region that is contiguous with it can be a part of India would be for Pakistan to accept that there was no need for the Partition of the subcontinent along religious lines and the creation of Pakistan in the first place. Liberals focus on understanding domestic politics in order to understand a country s actions in the international system. The Pakistani military, the country s most powerful institution since its formation, has used the conflict with India to bring about and legitimize its dominance of the country.
South Asia gained prominence in American foreign policy after the 9/11 attacks and the standoff that ensued between India and Pakistan in early 2002. Thus, this study concludes with policy recommendations, primarily to American policymakers, for dealing with Pakistan and Kashmir based on the analysis developed in the preceding chapters. This book, we hope, is an eye-opener for all general readers. It will be found immensely useful and informative by students, researchers and teachers of History, Political Science, International Relations and South Asian Studies.
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