Kashmir: How has the nuclearisation of South Asia fueled internal unrest in the contested territory of Kashmir? 



Kashmir is a contested territory between India, Pakistan, and China. It is a multi-faceted conflict mostly between India and Pakistan and crosses through religious and ethnic lines. The issue of Kashmir- whether classified as territorial, international, religious or ethnic- began just as a dividing line was drawn along the border hastily by Sir Cyril Radcliffe as the British prepared to leave India after 200 years of violent colonial rule. The problem of the princely state of Kashmir was unique in itself. The region was at the center of the dividing line with a Muslim majority population but a Hindu ruling monarch, which made the decision was conflicting. Kashmir held symbolic strategic importance for both states. For India, Kashmir meant a legitimization of its claim as a secular state, and for Pakistan, it meant monopoly over its natural resources since, by the virtue of geography, India held all major economic centers (Bombay, Delhi, Bengal) within its borders (Ganguly, Smetana, Abdullah & Karmazin, 2018). The princely state of Kashmir now had to decide whether to secede to India or Pakistan and the Hindu ruler chose India despite a Muslim population, which triggered a long 70 year and counting military conflict and a division of Kashmir where Pakistan controls the North-West, and India controls the rest.  This blog will highlight the consequences of nuclearisation on the civil unrest in Kashmir. Both countries have contentious relations and are nuclear powers. This animosity and nuclear dynamics cause increased internal violence in Kashmir as both states aim to tighten their grip, which has made Kashmir the most militarized region in the world. The nuclear aspect has led to instability rather than stability as theories like the security dilemma conclude. 


India, Pakistan and Nuclear Theories.

Nuclearisation is a modern post-world war II phenomenon and has been extensively studied through all schools of thought in International Relations- most dominantly realism. The accumulation of nuclear weapons by states leads to some dominant patterns of behavior and actions. One such theory is the security dilemma. As scholars like Glaser (1997) elaborate,


“the security dilemma is the key to understanding how in an anarchic international system states with fundamentally compatible goals still end up in competition and at war. The security dilemma The Kashmir conflict is a longtime multi-faceted dispute between India and Pakistan with massive human rights issues into play. exists when many of the means by which a state tries to increase its security decrease the security of others… interaction between states that are seeking only security can fuel competition and strain political relations” (pp. 171). 


It has long been argued that nuclear proliferation could increase the probability of international peace. Experts in nuclear theory like Kenneth Waltz (2012) point out how this could stabilize the regional hegemony. Neo realist theories argue that a balance of power and nuclear overreach will deter any conflict in the region because both parties realize the costs and destruction, which will encourage stability. The stability-instability-paradox argues that the effects of nuclearisation are binary and in contrast with each other. It argues that when states acquire nuclear ammunition, they act with restraint and recognize the principle of (Mutually Assured Destruction) like Waltz’s argument. However, the case of Kashmir shows that on the contrary, it also leads them to exploit and engage in several small scale diplomatically relevant conflicts or insurgencies that cause civilian violence. A classic historical example would be the Cold War. While both the US and USSR exercised restraint when it came to a blown-out nuclear war, they also engaged in precarious proxy wars around the world that caused major destruction. 


Kashmiri Context

The cycle of political violence is heavily caused by the wayside which these above theories affect the relationship between India and Pakistan. Firstly, as mentioned above, the development of nuclear weapons by both states has given rise to regional behavioral shifts which has destabilized South Asia and made it more insecure. As soon “as the state arms, it makes its adversary less secure by reducing the adversary's ability to defend itself. The adversary then buys additional arms in order to restore its military capability.”(Glasser, 1997; 174).  As Dittmer (2001) points out, there has been an increase in defensive behavior by India, Pakistan and even China and the Sino-Pak alliance has since strengthened. Pakistan and China have conjoined their regional goals following India’s rapid military and economic growth to curb its influence. Pakistan's reliance on China has led to mistrust and insecurity for India as China also holds claim to north-eastern Kashmir by the name of Aksai Chin and has border disputes with India in the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. These external factors explain the deployment of more than 700,000 Indian troops in the region along with Kashmir’s special status through Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This, in turn, reflects India’s heavy military and institutional presence in the region along with the nature of political violence that persists today. 


When assessing insurgencies and violence and Kashmir, it is impossible to not analyze the role of Pakistani intelligence aiding and abetting militant groups in the region, and causing more violence. This can be argued in a stability-instability paradox context. As Ganguly (1995) demonstrates, both sides are trying to fuel contentious internal conflict. Pakistan has countless of times supported insurgencies and militant activity in India through aid and intelligence The stakes were raised immensely post 1998 when Pakistan tested nuclear missiles in Chagai, twenty-three years after India had gained nuclear capabilities in 1974. Subsequently, the two nations conducted “back-to-back nuclear tests in May 1998… even though the two states were not signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, they had faced considerable international opprobrium for their crossing of the nuclear Rubicon" (Ganguly, 2008; 169).


Consequentially, Pakistan's heavy involvement and proximity with China has led to increased activity and helplessness among civilians. The competing violence of military and militancy has led to fatigue in civilians. Moreover, by shifting direction to structure, it has been established that all the instability in the region has its roots in the structural and institutional monopoly that the state possesses. As highlighted by Mann(1984), structural power can be used as a tool to initiate conflict and violence. Other than not holding a referendum on the fate of Kashmir while they were required to, both India and Pak’s state strategies have instilled a sense of exhaustion. While, India incorporated Kashmir in its constitution and gave it a special autonomous status through article 370, access to legal pathways for justice when there is abuse by military personnel is extremely tiresome. What renders more injustice, is Kashmir as a center of hostility because it sets a precedent for the Indian state to apply legislation like the Disturbed Areas Act, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA), which grant military troops and domestic police unchecked power to carry out operations (Haley & Hoffman, 201; 46). 



In conclusion, Kashmir is a complex conflict with a multi-faceted and cyclical. As elaborated, after the nuclear armament of both nations, this nature of violence became more brutal as the stakes were raised for both India and Pakistan. India’s failure to repair the institutional damage done by years of injustice has strengthened the self-determination uprisings in the region. Nuclearisation has been thoroughly researched in South Asia in a Kashmiri context because it is the hotbed and at the center of the contention between the most important key players in the region. This has directly impacted civilian life and human rights. 




Ganguly, S. et. al (2018). India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir dispute: unpacking the dynamics of a South Asian frozen conflict. 129–143. Asia Europe Journal  17 (1). https://link-springer-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/content/pdf/10.1007/s10308-018-0526-5.pdf

Waltz, K. (2012) “Why Iran Should Get The Bomb”, Council On Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2012-06-15/why-iran-should-get-bomb

Ganguly, S. (1995). Indo-Pakistani nuclear issues and the stability/instability paradox. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 18(4), 325. Retrieved from http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/docview/198300555?accountid=14771.

Dittmer, L. (2001). South Asia's security dilemma. Asian Survey, 41(6), 897-906. Retrieved from http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/docview/60605481?accountid=14771. 

MANN, M. (1984). The autonomous power of the state: Its origins, mechanisms and results. European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes De Sociologie / Europäisches Archiv Für Soziologie, 25(2), 185-213. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/23999270

Duschinski, H., & Hoffman, B. (2011). Everyday violence, institutional denial and struggles for justice in Kashmir. Race & Class, 52(4), 44–70. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306396810396583

Glaser, C. L. (1997). The security dilemma revisited. World Politics, 50(1), 171-201. Retrieved from http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/docview/274302756?accountid=14771.

Ganguly, S. (2008). War, Nuclear Weapons, and Crisis Stability in South Asia. Security Studies 17 (1): pp.164 184. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09636410801894233?journalCode=fsst20