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Pakistan India And The Kargil War Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 4060 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This paper will provide a shot summary of the Kargil War and an examination of the through the lenses of the democratic peace theory and nationalism. The paper will also focus primarily on how the theories apply to Pakistan since it was the true aggressor in this conflict. Both of these ideas allow for an examination of what causal factors led to the war, how the war was conducted, and how it came to a swift end. They will also help us better or understand the conflict, and allow conclusions to be drawn from the conflict with regard to U.S. interests, conflict prevention, and conflict resolution.

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Pakistan has unsuccessfully challenged India controlled portions of Kashmir through wars and negotiations since its establishment in 1947. In May 1998, Pakistan conducted its first nuclear test and introduced a new and dangerous dynamic to the problem of India’s contested sovereignty in Kashmir. With Indian and Pakistani soldiers guarding their respective borders and Pakistan’s long-term proxy war against India through support for Muslim militants, tensions in Kashmir have been “kept at a constant boil.” [1] 

Kashmir, a region split between Pakistan, India and China, resides in an extremely mountainous area that contains some of the highest peaks in the world. In this region, the Line of Control (LOC) is the recognized border between India and Pakistan. The LOC, albeit under a different name, was established after the First Kargil War (1947-1948) and was again agreed upon by Pakistan and India as part of the Simla Agreement in 1972. This agreement gave the LOC its name and also stated that neither the Indians nor the Pakistanis would contest the border through military means. [2] Since the agreement, the border has been heavily guarded on both sides for a majority of the year. During the exceedingly cold winter months, when roads and supply routes become impassable and risk of an offensive attack from either side was minimal, both the Pakistani and Indian guards abandoned their posts and returned in the spring.

However, during the winter of 1998-1999, Pakistan’s army, along with the help of mercenaries and mujahedeen, crossed the LOC and pushed into India’s portion of Kashmir. [3] Slowly, through the cold winter, they took over the Indian outposts and dug into their positions in Kargil and along a two hundred kilometer portion of the LOC and waited for Indian forces to return. [4] 

In February 1999, at the same time as the winter invasion, Pakistan and India were signing the Lahore Declaration which outlined peace, nuclear stability, trade, and unimpeded travel between the two countries. [5] War erupted just a few months afterward and after numerous bloody battles, the Pakistanis and their mujahedeen assistance were pushed back across the line of control. By July 14, 1999, the war was over but both sides had suffered significant casualties.

Democratic Peace

Our goal is to turn this time of American influence into generations of democratic peace. This requires America to remain engaged with the world and to project our strength with purpose and with humility.

–President George W. Bush, Speech to the State Department, Washington, DC February 15, 2001

The democratic peace proposition contends that “because they are democratic, democratic states will not fight (or initiate) international wars against each other. [6] The idea was a premise in Immanuel Kant’s 1795 literary work, Perpetual Peace, and further developed by Georg William Friedrich Hegel and others. For the most part, supporters of democratic peace cite that in democracies, the people rule through their elected officials and in an autocracy, most of the power resides with one person. In turn, democracies are more likely to support peace because those that would be doing the fighting typically choose not to fight. Given the choice, citizens are more likely to have a desire to avoid the tremendous loss of life, resources and accumulation of debt. Furthermore, elected officials are unwilling to wage war because a loss would significantly impact chances at reelection. [7] On the other hand, autocracies may suffer from these losses and debt, but according the Samuel Kant, “war does not affect [the ruler’s] table, his hunt, his places of pleasure, his court festivals, and so on.” [8] 

This idea has its doubters that base their cases on specific historical examples and the lack of statistical significance when historical conflicts are analyzed quantitatively. Doubters also argue that supporters adjust definitions in order to adapt and evolve when either a historical or new case risks not fitting into the peace proposition. For instance, what is a democracy? What is a war or a conflict? And so on. Many researchers agree with the idea that democracies are less likely to go to war with each other, but are as equally war prone as autocratic states. While this basic premise is the subject of some debate, the real benefits of this theory are encapsulated in how democracies behave, statistically, when they do enter into conflict.

The Kargil War is an excellent case to examine through the lens of the democratic peace proposition because this war provides historians and political scientists a chance to look at the rare case of warring democracies and see if the characteristic theoretical premises hold true. One characteristic demonstrated by examining disputes between 1816 and 1976 was when democracies are involved in conflict, there is less chance of all out war than when two non-democracies are in conflict. [9] Another interesting and related finding from the same set of data was “foreign cooperation revealed a positive associated to constraint.” [10] 

While the Kargil War was not part of this survey, it does fit these two conclusions. During the war, there was fear from neighboring countries and all over the world that it would escalate into all out war and theater nuclear war. Obviously, it did not. While a number of reasons prevented the escalation, two significant ones were the combination of constraint on the part of the Indians and foreign relations. During the fighting, then President Bill Clinton “asked [the Indian PM] to keep exercising the restraint the Indian government had shown this far.” [11] The Indian PM replied that India had “no intention of escalating the war” and “assured [President Clinton] that the air strikes were taking place within the Indian territory.” [12] Pakistan, on the other hand, who had hoped to internationalize the Kashmir issue in its favor by sending emissaries or pleading for support from China, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States, but found it had very few international supporters. [13] Quite the contrary, many countries voiced support for India instead of remaining neutral. China, a long time friend of Pakistan, expressed its hopes that the two countries would “peacefully resolve their issues.” [14] Russia also sided with India and denounced the actions of Pakistan. [15] Foreign cooperation, ultimately, led to Pakistan’s withdrawal from Indian territory after discussions with President Clinton on July 4, 1999. [16] A finding by Bueno de Mesquita and Lalman summarizes the two ideas mentioned above and the outcome of the Kargil War very well; they found that “negotiations, or preservation of the status quo are more likely if either the initiator or the target is democratic; it is not necessary that they both be democratic.” [17] This status quo is exactly the outcome of the Kargil War. Even today, the Indian and Pakistani military are at their posts guarding the LOC, the exact same positions as before the Kargil War.


Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception.

–George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell

Nationalism is a difficult term to grasp and an even harder term to define. When people discuss nationalism, they may be referring to flying the flag of their country or patriotism. Many definitions focus nationalism on politics, culture, religion or geography. Other definitions use it as a modern idea or reserve it for use with advanced societies and not the third world, or vice versa. More accepted views contend that “Nationalism is primarily a political principle, which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent.” [18] Furthermore, nationalism is created by a “strong sense of shared national identity [and] is sine qua non for a viable modern state, that it alone can provide the solid basis of trust between the citizens to motivate each other to sacrifice herself/himself for others.” [19] Further examination shows there are a great deal of connections and interdependencies between nationalisms, nations, and states. They are all connected by cultural and political aspects which are dependent on their own building blocks of language, history, and hundreds of other social factors. [20] Finally, nationalism is the combination of all of these things in the pursuit of legitimacy. [21] 

As any country has learned through great success, tragedy, or war, nationalism is a living and breathing entity that can be harnessed, strengthened, abused, or broken. This can happen in a number of different ways. With respect to the countrymen in Pakistan, the nationalism has been almost continually abused since the country was established in 1947. Examples of this abuse include: the division of British India where Muslims flocked to East or West Pakistan and tremendous loss of life resulted in clashes between Hindus and Muslims, the loss of Eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and numerous wars lost to India. But the Pakistanis are a proud people and have had their share of successes, most notably the successful test of a nuclear weapon in 1998. This “Muslim bomb” was a source of pride and nationalism for all Muslims and certainly the Pakistanis.

The successful tests of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in 1998 and the associated boost in nationalistic pride essentially paved the way for the invasion of Kashmir. Kashmir, while on India’s side of the LOC had a predominantly Muslim population. This arrangement has been deemed unacceptable by Pakistan and Muslims in Kashmir ever since the division of British India. Pakistan had fought wars over the contested land (e.g., 1947 and 1967) and had lost to superior Indian military strength. Nationalism played a large role in these offense actions. India’s rule over Kashmir was in direct violation of an important “nationalist sentiment: if the rulers of the political unit belong to a nation other than that of the majority of the ruled, this, for nationalists, constitutes a quite outstandingly intolerable breach of political propriety.” [22] Pakistan’s attempt to gain control of Kashmir was thwarted by a number of factors. As with the previous two attempts, it was thwarted by a superior Indian military even though it took the Indians by complete surprise. Additionally, its attempt to gain outside support for its nationalistic struggle was unsuccessful. As written above, many countries failed to see that Pakistan was trying to gain control of land occupied by Kashmiri Muslims and instead saw Pakistan (again) attacking their sovereign neighbor.

As the United States stepped in, an outside force was introduced that served to influence the political nationalism of Pakistan. In our globalized world, this attack on India risked international trade and foreign direct investment along with government to government support. [23] Pakistan’s leadership knew they were losing the war and as international sentiment shifted to India’s favor, the Pakistani government may have realized that these global implications will have a trickledown effect to other aspects of nationalism, most notably through economic losses to an already impoverished country. [24] The loss of the war in addition to the projected “image of untrustworthyness to the world” would have further deepened the wounds to Pakistan’s nationalism. [25] Alas, Pakistan chose to only impact its nationalism through the loss of the war instead of compounding the losses with other factors.

U.S. interests, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution

These theories as applied to the Kargil War demonstrate a number of different findings with respect to U.S. interests, conflict prevention and conflict resolution. An examination of the democratic peace theory shows that when a democracy is involved in war, the wars are typically shorter and are more likely to end through mediation. Kargil is an excellent example where diplomacy played two critical roles. First, it helped end the aggressive attacks by Pakistan and second, it helped ensure India would not conduct a counterattack into Pakistan. This process worked because many aspects of the Kashmir issue are political problems and must be resolved politically. Unfortunately, Kashmir has a long history with many different versions depending on which side of the border you are on. [26] This leads to dangerous propaganda that influences and drives nationalism. This nationalistic spirit has led Pakistan to cling to the Kashmir issue. “Kashmir is central to Pakistan’s Islamic national unity [and] almost all Islamabad regimes, both democratic and authoritarian since Pakistan’s creation in 1947, have used the Kashmir issue to consolidate their position.” [27] While this may be true, Kashmir has not been represented at Indo-Pak negotiations because the Indians have resisted such trilateral meetings. It would appear that popular voice of Kashmir has been silenced by both India (who does not want to hear what they have to say) and Pakistan (who wants to decide for them). In any case, both the democratic peace theory and nationalism ideas show that all parties must be present for a formal conclusion to a conflict and a true representation of the enemy must be made to the people.

When considering what conclusions can be drawn from the Kargil War, there are commonalities that exist between U.S. interests and future conflict prevention. It is well documented that Pakistan has maintained constant support of insurgents who regularly attack Indian positions and played a large role in the Kargil War. [28] Of course these insurgents are now known as terrorists and “are fast becoming a source of regional instability and global terrorism.” [29] The result of the financial support are anti-terror laws in both Pakistan and India which are far more “draconian” than the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act in the United States. [30] These laws thereby impact the nationalism and freedoms of the people in both countries. Prior to future diplomatic talks between the two countries, a third party (hopefully representing of every country in the world) must convince Pakistan to stop supporting terrorists and put an end to the proxy-war in India. Strong actions against terrorists could be used as requisites for aid which could serve the country Pakistan a great deal. Aid could support the “education and human resource development” and provide financial resources for “health care, the supply of clean water, and the development of social and physical infrastructure.” [31] These steps, over the long term, could help to stabilize Pakistan and the region and perhaps one day remove the stigma that has plagued Pakistan for years.


Theories of conflict can help one examine a conflict through different lenses and develop an understanding of causal factors associated with why conflicts start, escalate, deescalate and respond to stimuli like foreign intervention and support. The Kargil War, as seen through the lenses of democratic peace and nationalism, is a very complex war with a tremendous amount of history driving actions by both countries. Pakistan’s actions during the Kargil War were truly a cause for fury and it is no surprise that India has resisted any further negotiation with Pakistan regarding the Kashmir issue. “To be stabbed is one thing, to be stabbed in the back is another.” [32] It would seem that democratic peace, in this case, means the “constant boil” or status quo will continue for years to come. [33] 

Bibliography FIX editions and RAND

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Ashley J. Tellis, Christine Fair and Jamison Jo Medby, Limited Conflicts Under the Nuclear Umbrella (Arlington, VA: Rand Corporation, 2001). NO NEED?


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