Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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English (Indian) – Jammu and Kashmir

September 30th, 2011 · No Comments · English (Indian), Jammu and Kashmir

by Nishank Motwani

जम्मू और कश्मीर

‘Jammu and Kashmir’

Few terms have the effect of producing dangerous levels of conventional brinkmanship and nationalistic fervour as the word Kashmir does in Indian and Pakistani security discourse.

The word Kashmir raises lethal emotions between Indians and Pakistanis, especially those living in the divided region of Kashmir. Since 1989, Kashmir is primarily known for its anti-India protests (and some anti-Pakistani protests), terrorist attacks against Indian security personnel, a twenty-two yearlong insurgency (and still counting) and calls for freedom and liberation from native Kashmiris on both sides of the divided border. The focus on Kashmir is undoubtedly the Kashmir Valley under Indian control, which Pakistan refers to as “Indian occupied Kashmir” (IoK). In contrast, Pakistan generously affords its portion of Kashmir the nomenclature of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) or “Free Jammu and Kashmir” – which India refers to as “Pakistan occupied Kashmir” (PoK). The IoK’s and PoK’s apart, the region itself is seldom referred to by its original name “Jammu and Kashmir” or Kashir, as per the native Kashmiris. Although the conflict over Kashmir is chiefly framed by the Indo-Pakistani contest for primacy, another layer of the conflict that receives less attention is that of native Kashmiris’ struggle against both Indian and Pakistani positions. In fact, politically, Kashmiris define themselves by their desired autonomy whereas Indians and Pakistanis define Kashmir in relation to themselves.[1]

The Kashmir conflict is traditionally viewed through the lens of four conceptions: politics, ideology, nationalism and self-determination. Each of the aforementioned conceptions from an Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri perspective are distinct from each other and are in perpetual contest. Although several other viewpoints on Kashmir exist due in part to the diversity of South Asia’s ethno-national composition, the proliferation of the common view has unleashed forces that have aggrandized the potency of the word Kashmir and the region itself.

From an Indian perspective, the focus on Kashmir in the international media is considered substantially biased as the attention falls almost entirely on the Indian administered state of Jammu and Kashmir and not on PoK or the regions of Kashmir illegally occupied by China.[2] In terms of politics, Kashmir is often described as “an integral and inalienable part of India.”[3] This statement is not restricted to Indian administered Kashmir but also extends to PoK—the latter consists of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan and is denoted as a legitimate part of the Indian Union. Giving the political argument further impetus is the “Instrument of Accession”[4] signed by the last Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which marked its transfer to the Independent Dominion of India on 26 October 1947.[5] However, the instrument marking the transfer is not recognised by Pakistan and Islamabad has questioned its very existence.[6] Politically and strategically, Kashmir’s strategic location is significant for the geographical consolidation of both India and Pakistan. For these reasons, two-full scale wars have been fought in 1947-1948 and 1965 and a limited war in 1999 between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. This is not to say that other factors such as ideology and nationalism played little or no role in Kashmir but rather to highlight the factors of primary importance.

In terms of ideology, New Delhi’s argument for establishing sovereignty over Kashmir is to reinforce its secular credentials and to deny any further division of the state on ideological grounds. Whether this claim holds merit or not can be contested but given that Pakistan was a product of the “two-nation theory” as a result of partition, any insinuation of applying the same Hindu-Muslim paradigm to further divide India is totally unacceptable to New Delhi. In contrast, Pakistan argues that Kashmir holds the key to legitimize its Islamic statehood for South Asia’s Muslims even though the communal reasons behind such a justification emerged as an afterthought of its own independence.[7] Caught in the middle of the posturing by India and Pakistan, rivalling Kashmiri political groups have been competing amongst themselves in deciding which state to join. Thus it is prudent to recognise that Kashmiri Muslims in 1947 were not a monolithic group and till date remain divided about forging a union with India, Pakistan and/or seeking independence. In sum, there is no doubt that if Kashmir is viewed simply through an ideological lens the dispute becomes a zero-sum game.

In terms of nationalism, the Kashmir dispute represents a clash of Indian and Pakistani nationalisms upon which the two states were created and as such has become a hostage to their distinct identities. Pakistani nationalism and the “two-nation theory” are premised upon the belief that Muslims would be oppressed under Hindu-majority rule; hence the demand for a Muslim state that is independent from Hindu-majority India.[8] Kashmir fits into Pakistan’s nationalistic agenda because of its predominantly Muslim population, which is seen as a justification by Islamabad for it to be part of Pakistan and as a means to construct its identity. However, Islamabad’s claiming of Kashmir contradicts its public rhetoric that seeks a settlement in favour of native Kashmiris as it does not accommodate calls by Kashmiris that demand independence from Pakistan. Conversely, Indian nationalism is rooted in secularism and considers that people of all faiths can co-exist in a common space as they have for centuries. Thus, Kashmir is essential to Indian nationalism because it establishes New Delhi’s secular credentials and losing it to a Muslim-majority state would signify a defeat of Indian pluralism. Paradoxically, due to the uncompromising nationalisms on either side of Kashmir, their respective regions of Kashmir have suffered the most in this conflict. Furthermore, the domineering nationalisms of India and Pakistan have stifled Kashmiri nationalism and entangled it with those of either state.

In terms of self-determination, the popular term that encapsulates the Kashmir conflict is plebiscite. From a Pakistani perspective, the term denotes how India robbed Kashmiris their right to self-determination by not fulfilling its initial commitment of conducting such an exercise.[9] The term plebiscite expresses a popular belief in Pakistani discourse which assumes that any such vote would mark the transfer of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan. Interestingly, Pakistan avoids speaking of conducting a plebiscite in AJK and restricts the issue of plebiscite only to the Kashmir Valley under Indian control which is inhabited by a large Muslim population.[10] For India, a military-dominated Pakistan championing Kashmiris right to self-determination and calling for a plebiscite in a democratic India is perceived as humiliating. New Delhi has long argued that although it initially committed to conducting a plebiscite, the essential preconditions set by the United Nations resolution that sought the removal of Pakistani forces from Kashmir were not implemented by Islamabad. The existence of Pakistani forces in AJK or PoK from India’s perspective from May 1948 onwards never established the conditions under which a plebiscite could be held. India has also argued that six decades of events have overtaken the initial offer of holding a plebiscite. Moreover, New Delhi has asserted that political participation of Kashmiris in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir’s state elections demonstrates their democratic choice in India and not Pakistan.

Lastly, with respect to Kashmiri Muslims that argue in favour of a plebiscite and call for azadi (freedom) from Indian and Pakistani rule, the term usually oscillates between political and territorial independence. A common assumption of the right to self-determination is that gaining territorial independence would in itself be a panacea to the complex dynamics of the conflict. However, the plebiscite being referred to does not address the desires of non-Kashmiri Muslims and non-Muslim Kashmiris and hence it lacks an inclusive character. The discourse on plebiscite has also been used to justify the violence against Indian security forces in the Kashmir Valley and to mask the insurgency sponsored by Pakistan as a “freedom-struggle”. In sum, the calls for a plebiscite are used by Islamabad to pressure New Delhi on reaching a skewed solution to the conflict. However, the support given by Islamabad to the notion of plebiscite is immaterial since neither Pakistan nor India will allow their respective parts of Kashmir to secede.

The challenges posed by Pakistan, a revisionist and irredentist neighbour have impelled New Delhi to alter a common misperception: that of equating an aggressor state (Pakistan) with the victim of aggression (India).[11] The state of Jammu and Kashmir symbolizes the clash of the wills of India and Pakistan and the pervasive centrality of Kashmir in the overall relationship between India and Pakistan. To that end, Kashmir will remain a hostage to the Indo-Pakistan rivalry.



[1] Paula R. Newberg, Double Betrayal: Repression and Insurgency in Kashmir, Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1995.

[2] Complicating the Indo-Pakistani dyadic competition even further is China’s occupation of some regions of Kashmir known as Aksai Chin annexed and the Trans-Karakoram Highway tract. The former was annexed by China in the 1962 Indo-China war and the latter was acceded illegally by Pakistan to China.

[3] See, Kashmir: The True Story (The Jammu and Kashmir Issue), External Publicity Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 2004, pp. 1-8, available at [accessed 06 September 2011].

[4] The first Governor General of India, Lord Luis Mountbatten accepted the Instrument of Accession unconditionally. He said, “I do hereby accept this Instrument of Accession” thereby completing the offer and acceptance. See, “Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir”, South Asia Terrorism Portal, at [accessed 6 September 2011].

[5] See, “Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir”, Signed by Maharaja Mahendra Rajrajeshwar Maharajadiraj Shri Singh Ji and The Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Governor General of India, 26 October 1947, pp. 1-3.

[6] See, Azad Govt. of the State of Jammu & Kashmir: History, at [accessed 06 September 2011].

[7] Navnita Chadha Behera, Demystifying Kashmir, Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2006.

[8] Kamal Chenoy, “Contending Nationalisms: Kashmir and the Prospects for Peace”, Harvard International Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, Fall 2006, at [accessed 6 September 2011].

[9] See, “Kashmir Dispute”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan, at [accessed 6 September 2011].

[10] Madhu Kishwar, “Why Fear People’s Choice? Calling Pakistan’s Bluff on Plebiscite in J and K”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 38, No. 36, September 2003, pp. 3773-3777.

[11] See, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir: Changing the Discourse, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, IDSA PoK Project Report, New Delhi, May 2011, pp. 1-52.


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