India and Pakistan

Persistent rivalry

Authored by: Rajesh Basrur

The Routledge Handbook of Asian Security Studies

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138210295
eBook ISBN: 9781315455655
Adobe ISBN:


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The prolonged rivalry between India and Pakistan has produced a substantial body of scholarship over the decades – a flow which has remained sizable in recent years. 1 Most have been pessimistic and the relationship, centred on their dispute over Kashmir since they gained independence from British rule in 1947, has been widely viewed as an “enduring” rivalry. 2 This chapter attempts to identify the origins of this rivalry, trace its path up to the present, and assess the prospects for its termination. The next section focuses on the sources of India–Pakistan conflict, particularly the systemic and national-level factors that have shaped its course. Thereafter, the patterns that made up the first phase of the conflict – during the period from 1947 to the mid-1980s – are identified. This was an era during which classic power politics were manifest. In the third section, it is shown that the pattern changed when both states developed nuclear weapons, at first covertly (from the mid-1980s to 1998) and then overtly after both carried out nuclear tests in 1998. The possession of nuclear weapons by the rivals at once constrained traditional balance-of-power politics and generated increased mutual hostility. The analysis concludes with a consideration of the prospects for the termination of the rivalry by assessing the possibilities at the systemic, state, and individual levels of analysis.

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