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1990 Kashmir Insurgency: An analysis of Geo-Political Security Situation

Friday prayers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. © John Isaac



Kashmir Valley, known for its scenic gardens, picturesque landscape and exquisite lake was a popular tourist destination for people across the world in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Popular movie films were shot here and people across the world admired the serene beauty of the valley. But all this reversed in early 1980’s and the valley got occupied with insurgency and mass protests and killings which took at least 45,000 lives.

This paper will examine the geo-political security situation of the world that led the insurgency in 90’s. It will first examine the conditions under which J&K was acceded to India. Then, it will examine the reasons of the insurgency of 90’s and also access the Indian Government’s response. Towards the end, it will provide solutions to improve the situation in Kashmir.


The independence of British India happened amidst the Cold war. With Nehru being a socialist, the Anglo-American nexus decided to cultivate Pakistan as dependable member in order to contain communism in South Asia. When the princely-state of Jammu-Kashmir was given the option to either join India, Pakistan or remain independent, the Anglo-American nexus wanted Kashmir to become part of Pakistan or to remain independent so that it could remain within the sphere of their influence as part of strategy of containment.

Due to the Muslim-majority in the region, Pakistan also desperately wanted Kashmir. But Maharaja Hari Singh, then ruler of Jammu-Kashmir delaying his decision to join any country and opposition from Sheikh Abdullah, the popular Muslim leader, to join Pakistan feared Karachi. This led Karachi to plan a tribal invasion to make the state join Pakistan. With invasion in Kashmir, Lord Mountbatten and General Lockhart worked feverishly behind the scenes to prevent India retaliate the attack. They did not want the cities of Domel and Muzaffarabad, which shared borders with then communist Soviet Union, China and Afghanistan, to go in the hands of Indian troops. Furthermore, the Anglo-Americans wanted to woo the Muslim world after their mandate in Palestine.

They even advised India against attacking Pakistan citing ‘great risks and dangers’ but the Indian administrators insisted on action. With Britishers helping New Delhi evade infiltrators merely on purpose of ‘evacuating garrisons’, they deliberately took the case to United Nations as proper course of action and simultaneously promised full military preparations for counter-attack. Nehru, then Indian PM, accepted the proposal hoping to solve the conflict and hoping Britishers to keep their part of the agreement. But in the UNSC, British proposals were always supportive of Pakistan and Kashmir’s invasion and accession was hardly taken into account.

But UN resolution accepted the legality of J&K accession to India and called for withdrawal of invaders from Kashmir and a subsequent plebiscite. Thus, even though Jammu-Kashmir was formally integrated with India with the support of both Maharaja and Sheikh Abdullah, the efforts of the West left the princely state spit between India and Pakistan and called for asking ‘the will of the people’ after withdrawal of Pakistan’s troops. Since then, aspirations of Kashmiri’s for independence never disappeared from their consciousness.

Geo-political security Context

Since that time, Pakistan has waged many conflicts and fought wars over Kashmir but Kashmir remained calm till the early 1970’s. But a sudden demand of plebiscite and insurgency increased after 1975. The geo-political security atmosphere of the world is attributed to those factors.

During that time, USA was engaged in containing communism in Afghanistan. It used the policy of hybrid warfare to handle the situation and funds for the same were channelled through Pakistan, the US ally. Pakistan used these funds to train jihadis to bleed the red communists but the money was also used to increase insurgency in Kashmir. As a consequence of Washington’s massive funding and warfare tactics, the Red Army was defeated in 1989. This left the vacuum for the jihadis, trained during the ten-year (1979-1989) war in Afghanistan no war to fight, prompting the Pakistani generals to divert full tactics of Kabul in India. This is well-evident from the fact that insurgency and dissatisfaction of locals with the Indian Armed Forces was at its peak after USSR’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Police found themselves outgunned by the militants who possessed sophisticated weapons like grenades and rocket launchers (Priyanka, Sumit). USA, well-aware of Pakistan’s tactics, wanted Kashmir to be boiling to prevent India from gaining access of the communist Countries.

Soviet Union, aware of American intentions, supported India in Kashmir issue at various instances. But with the sudden defeat of USSR in 1989 and demand of independence from various republics weakened its support to India. On the contrary, this boosted USA’s support and gave spirit to Kashmiris to fulfil their dream of independence. January 20, 1990 was set as independent day and on January 19, mass killings of Pandits took place to rid Kashmir of its non-Muslim population to aggravate its stance of joining Pakistan.

The Saudi influence of Islamization of Kashmir also started in the same period. A Muslim conference was organized by Saudi religious people in 1979 and Jhelum Valley Medical College was established in 1980. The JV medical college served as a measure source through which large sums of money were channelled into Kashmir and planted the seeds of Islamic fundamentalism in Kashmiris. The doctors and staff in the college further spread these messages. In 1980’s, there was clearly an orchestrated campaign to change the Kashmiri people. Several madrassahs and mosques were set up that trained the jihadists and propagated these agendas. Jagmohan, then Governor of the state noted the violence to perturb particularly on Friday nights as crowd dispersed from the mosques. ‘Islam is in Danger’ was the sentiment that mobilized the youth that period. This further brewed hated towards the Kashmiri pandits. 

With the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the triumph of Ayatollah, who talked of liberating the enslaved Muslim world, further gave confidence to the secessionist movement. The Jamaat-I-Islami party of Kashmir spread rumours that Ayatollah’s ancestors had come to Kashmir and that he was related to Kashmiri Muslims. These developments became a matter of pride for Kashmiris who did not even mind the Shia factor of Tehran.

Thus, Pakistan, with the support of Americans and Saudi world resorted to the ideology of communalism and proxy war to win Kashmir. Several operations such as Operation Tupac and Ripe Apple theory were launched to fight for the cause of oppressed Kashmiri Muslims. With increase in Islamabad’s defence cost and the low-cost proxy war, Pakistan wanted to bleed India and make it inefficient to control situation in the valley, prompting Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. In 1990 almost a thousand of the elite Kashmiri Muslims were on the payroll of the ISI and in 1989, the Indian government estimated that about 10,000 Kashmiri youth had gone to Pakistan to undergo training.

While Indian government, involved with its own political crisis and change of governments, did not intervene much in the matter. In 1977, when Indian government withdrew its support of National Conference (NC), even Sheikh started speaking about the plebiscite and independence. In 1980, Sheikh’s government started Islamization of Kashmir and began changing names of about 2500 villages and delivered communal speeches in mosques. In his autobiography, Sheikh referred Pandits as ‘mukhbir’ or ‘the informers of Indian government’. The 1987 rigged elections further increase the support of the insurgency. The uneducated, unaware youth, engulfed with unemployment got sentimental in believing the communal speeches and into believing that liberation of Kashmir would help his cause.

All these external and internal influences played an indispensable role in Kashmir for youth to dream about independence who started perpetuating insurgency throughout Srinagar. When the Kashmiri youth dissatisfied with their plight were offered arms and money by Pakistanis, they became the reason of insurgency. All this happened till 9/11 attacks when foreign influences and funding to Pakistan halted and many youths gave up arms and started seeking alternatives to fulfil thrust for autonomy. But even today, Kashmir faces the problem of insurgency and the grievances of youth remain unresolved.

India’s strategy

Despite the influence of both external powers and domestic factors in aggravating the problem in Kashmir, India has taken various steps to control the rising insurgency.

According to Jagmohan, between January 1 and January 19, 1990, 319 violent acts were reported in Kashmir. This led Indian government to impose Presidential rule and impose Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the valley in 1990. There was deployment of massive troops, and paramilitary forces. Around 20,000 militants were killed and the militancy was managed to a great extent. All these strategies led insurgents to give up violence and fed up of the countering, they stopped attempting violence. Several cases of violent activities have still been noted after 1990’s but they are of much less momentum.

Way Ahead

Kashmir can become an integral part of India if proper resources and policy measures are introduced in the valley by both the national and local governments. The need is to bring the requisite infrastructure, educational and employment opportunities for its resident along with boosting the tourism industry. Alternative employment opportunities and psychological trainings to militants should also be provided. Despite the enormous cost spend on fighting terrorism, the government now needs to shift the focus of this cost to alleviate poverty and bring good opportunities for the youth.

With the removal of Article 370 and the introduction of J&K Reorganization Act, the region has come directly under Centre’s rule and has started receiving socio-political equality, education, jobs, reservations and other rights enjoyed by people in other parts of country. All these steps would lead to stability and peace and is inviting private ventures and businesses in Kashmir that would lead to development of the region, creating employment for the youth. The rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits back in the valley and the provision of domicile rights to POK refugees have further aggravated the process of bringing and recognizing different religions and ethnicities in the valley. The government inviting ‘misguided’ youths for employment opportunities is also a step in the right direction.

With the direct control of centre government in Kashmir, militancy could be also contained by undertaking physical and preventive measures with the help of military in the short-run. But rather than bringing a revolution, evolutionary measures need to be adopted by the stakeholders through conducive measures. All this would slowly but surely bring an evolution in Kashmir.

Liza Gupta is a student currently pursuing Masters in Diplomacy, Law and Business from O.P. Jindal Global University. She is fascinated about the Kashmir issue and the gender issues and wants to pursue doctoral studies in the subject.

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South Asia

Varisha Tariq – Representing women in politics



Varisha Tariq is a writer and politician interested in the intersectionality of gender, class and global politics with culture. She is an Alumna of Ashoka University, and founder of Helping Hands NGO, Lucknow. She has been published in an anthropological book ‘People called Lucknow’ and in news outlets like Vogue, Stylist Magazine, Fodor, CH-VOID, LiveWire, Your Story, Feminism In India and Hindustan Times. You can find all her published work here and her most recent article in Vogue here.

Why did you choose to contest for elections in India?  
Growing up as a Muslim woman I had become intricately familiar with how politics impacts marginalised women’s rights. The lack of women in politics certainly played a huge role in how the policies in the country were shaped. I had always been a feminist who has been interested in bringing large-scale change and post my undergraduate studies at Ashoka, I realise the potential Indian Politics hold. Not just that but the understanding that it’s all about the courage to enter these fields. To quote Emma Watson, “if not me, who? if not now, when?”

Why did you choose Congress as the party you want to support? 

My reason for choosing congress was based on the party’s current policy, leadership and an analysis of its relevance geographically and their long-term vision. The party re-designed its vision to a feminist structure with women empowerment as a key point in its manifesto. It promised to have a minimum of forty per cent women in leadership positions. In Uttar Pradesh, Congress has been strong opposition to the right-wing ideological party, BJP. Moreover, the party leadership is committed to restructuring the party from a long-term perspective and I appreciated the dedication. These were my reason for choosing to support congress. 

What are some campaigns you ran for your party? 

All my campaigns were in alignment with #LadkiHounLadSaktiHoun campaign. I ran a digital campaign to raise awareness about the electoral process in order to encourage others to apply. I tried to break down the process of applying for MLA in Uttar Pradesh as this knowledge would make politics more accessible to people who have doubts or reservations about the political system. The campaigns were planned keeping Covid in mind so they had physical restrictions. 

Why did you choose feminism as a centric theme for your campaigns? 

Having experienced patriarchal and structural defects that work against the Indian woman, and having worked in the social sector, I realised the biggest change that needs to come in India is in the field of policy making. Even if we have strong laws that can help prevent oppression against women, we don’t have a strong policy system that can properly support it. Politicians are key in creating and promoting healthy policies. Strong policies regardig women can only come into affect if we have more feminist politicians. Even apart from that, I have always dreamt of creating feminist social impact and I believe that this campaign has been a start of a lifelong commitment to this cause. 

Do you see yourself trying for elections again despite the outcome this time? 

That is a yes without any doubt. Politics is one profession where you must commit to a long-term plan. For the same reason, this is never rushed. You keep coming back to politics as and when you grow. When I entered I knew that this would be something I would carry with me lifelong and the efforts have to be consistent. So, in short, yes, I will definitely keep trying till it works out. 

What has your social work in the past included? 

I worked as a Resident Assistant in the final year of my college, a student ambassador for Ashoka University for two years, a member of Centre for Gender and Sexuality, Ashoka University. All these commitments drew out a leader in me, a leader who is passionate about serving her community. In 2019, I established Helping Hands NGO where I led a team of six individuals. The objective was to make welfare schemes accessible for the marginalized. Over the span of four months, I connected to more than forty-five thousand female students and two thousand families. During the deadly second wave of Covid, I used my NGO to increase awareness of medical resources available in Lucknow. I worked with Ashoka University and Barefoot International at the time when India was, quite literally, gasping for breath. Today I am working to create sustainable creative scholarships for marginalised young girls who want to grow up and pursue unconventional career paths.

What are your future plans?

After dabbling in the creative sector, development sector, politics and business I have realised that the one thing that has remained common in whatever I do is my feminist understanding of the world. In order to learn and understand more about the feminst leadership and perspective I have decide to pursue a masters in Gender and Law from SOAS Univeristy of London. Post that I would want to come back to India and pursue politics. Hopefully my deeper understanding of Gender and Law from South-Asian perspective would allow me to create meaningful and sustainble impact in politics in the years to come. 

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South Asia

The India-Pakistan Sub-Conventional War: Democracy and Peace in South Asia -Book Review



Sanjeev Kumar H.M., The India-Pakistan Sub-Conventional War: Democracy and Peace in South Asia, New Delhi: SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd, 2022, pp. 207, ₹1,095 (Hard Cover). ISBN: 978-93-5479-420-9.

The India-Pakistan relations have involved a manifestation of the multifaceted nature of conflict since their independence and partition. The legacy of colonialism, psychology of fractured identities and a deep sense of nationalism have been the leading trends defining their relations. From geopolitical conflicts over Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism, their geostrategic ties with other countries to the third party involvement of US and China, India and Pakistan have seen multiple level of tensions.

To understand these multifaceted dynamics of India-Pakistan relations, the book under review involves an adequate analysis of their unique relations that is beyond the understanding of any western theorization. The book criticises the theory of democratic peace thesis and reports its failure in the context of India-Pakistan relationship as two democracies facing multiple level of conflicts. The author, Sanjeev Kumar HM, criticize the liberal peace thesis for considering only the conventional definition of warfare, and suggests to move beyond or consider the sub conventional form of conflict through diving into the empirical case scenarios of India-Pakistan relations. It examines the modes by which the crisis-prone processes of democratization in South Asia have contested the central thesis of liberal theory of international relations, which claims a natural link between democracy and war. In other words, the book opposes the epistemic foundations of democratic peace hypothesis by deconstructing its central arguments in the geostrategic context of the South Asian regional security architecture. It explains the South Asian region as a postcolonial territorial formation, which has been plagued by internal conflicts driven by social-economic inequities and embedded complexities.

Unlike the chronological explanations of India-Pakistan relations, the book aims to revise the theoretical rigors around them. The ontology, epistemology, spatial-temporal aspect of every theory is different, thus cannot be generalized. The democratic peace these is suitable for those societies engaged in interdependent community, for instance- European Union. The author has analyzed the transferability of democracy and peace from domestic to regional and then to the global level, which varies as per the history of a country or region. Unlike Western Society, the South Asian region has multiple aspect of analysis- Nationalism, Post-colonial conditionality, and delayed modernity. The failure of modernity in South Asia itself makes it not qualified to be analyzed as per the liberal peace thesis concept.

The deepening of democracy goes through stages like- decay, consolidation and maturity. Pakistan as a deep state, manages between authoritarianism and democratization since the beginning. With increasing emphasizes on Islamic state goals and military statecraft, Pakistan continued to face legitimation crisis and shrinking of public sphere, being a terror manufacturing state facilitating under military control thus has no connection to the liberal peace theses. While despite all the neo-liberal reforms, India has failed to create an inclusive society and over-bureaucratization of development that reflects how India doesn’t fit in liberal peace theses. In liberal peace theses, there is a presupposed rationalism required between two parties to maintain peace that is mostly missing between India-Pakistan.

He has argued how liberal peace theses fails to take following factors into consideration (thus fails to anlyze the South Asian region)- 1) Regime types, as a democracy can be procedural or consolidated or both based on the stage of democracy deepening it could have achieved; 2) Different nature of State, as while India focused on maintaining status quo, Pakistan continued to emphasize on escalation and reaching threshold; 3) State behavior, as the nature of peace and war gets determined by the behavior of states. The most important aspect of the book is the fact that author has attempted to redefine the concept of war as different from the conventional concept of war given by democratic peace theses. He argues that India-Pakistan war are not only conventional in nature, but also have remained sub-conventional that costed more casualties to both sides. The sub-conventional wars have been a result of both countries’ failure in nuclear deterrence.

The book concludes that the democracies in South Asia have gone through sub-conventional war consistently, most particularly between India-Pakistan making their equations as unsuitable to be analyzed by the democratic peace theses, despite being democracies. Their sub-conventional war involves multifaceted aspect of conflicts that involves- a) geopolitical factors due to contest and hostilities over the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, majorly seen as contest between the Westphalian and the primordialist conception of state; b) Ideological contestation between secularism and Islamic nationhood in the context of Jammu and Kashmir most particularly. c) The over acquisition of nuclear weapons by both countries reflects their contested terrain of power politics.

Weakness or Limits of the book:

The book is theoretically loaded with less empirical explanations, which requires a less advanced IR scholar or student to do two or more readings to understand the complex terminologies used in the book. It has given a fair explanation how liberal peace thesis has no application in the South Asian region, but has used only the case study of India-Pakistan relations. If the central argument opposes the generalization of democratic peace thesis in analyzing the relations between any democracies, then the counter-argument of the book should have used more examples before generalization the non-application of peace thesis in South Asia. The absence of enough empirical examples in comparison to theoretical arguments can limit the readership of the book.

How it is good for the IR students?

As mastery on theoretical analysis is a loosing trend among IR and foreign policy scholars. This book will lead the reader in the direction of conceptual clarity of not only democratic peace thesis and its critic neo-kantian cosmopolitan, but also the whole IR theoretical base. How every theory of IR views the anarchical nature of world order and suggest solutions, but not all solutions fit into the South Asian region. This means the analysis should consider the spatial and temporal aspects of a situation or case study as well. Sometimes a theory fits, sometimes doesn’t but following a particular spatio-temporal analysis derived majorly from Euro-American experience limits the scope of analyzing a regional of different spatial-temporal dimension like South Asia, which is full of its very unique kind of controversies and disputes around the issues of river water sharing, transborder migration, cross-border terrorism, diverse ethnic nationalities, and so on. 

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South Asia

Politics of Pakistan: A Riot or an Opportunity



On 14th August, 1947 Pakistan appeared on the world map as the largest independent Muslim state of that time. Sixty-five million people out of Ninety-five million population were Muslims. Despite of the shared religion of its majority, Pakistan is still struggling to build a national identity. Earlier, linguistic and cultural diversity were a hurdle but, in the Common Era political imbalance, rivalry and groupings left Pakistan with nothing but social, political and economic crisis with no future of stability.

Division of Sub-continent into India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan was a kick start to the largest demographic movement in history. Unfortunately, Muhammad Ali Jinnah died when Pakistan was less than a year old. The politics of Pakistan has not been less than a roller coaster ride. Till date the State has been ruled by 27 different Prime Ministers where some of them ruled twice and even thrice. Adding to that, the state has been under dictatorship four times since its independence. This political chaos has badly affected the economy of Pakistan. Not that Pakistan is a barren landlocked country with no reservoirs or no beneficial source to strengthen the economy, but, the political riot has played a vital role in paralyzing the social and economic bodies. Pakistan’s politicians have obediently followed the tradition of blame game since independence. Political representatives have always considered it necessary to blame the opponents for unstable environment in rather than being united against the state issues. The truth is that none of the political party could ever succeed in fulfilling the objectives of their five-year plan.

Due to sudden change of government, corruption, fragile institutions, the country’s economy suffered harsh weather. In 1980’s the economic growth was an impressive 6.3% which had a sharp decline during 1990’s and dropped to 4.9%. By the end of dictatorship the growth decelerated to 1.7% in 2008 and political instability accelerated to -2.4%. During the regime of PPP, the Nation succeeded in nothing but increase in economic instability, rise in corruption, inflation, and unemployment. PPP has set Karachi as a portrait of their inefficiency which the city witnesses every year during monsoon season. In 2013, the biggest political parties of Pakistan, PMLN and PTI fought the elections and undesirable results ended in a 126 days long dharna in the Capital of Pakistan with the inclusion of rallies, aggressive speeches and corruption cases against the opponents to hold them responsible and throw them out. The dramatic political unrest forced the country to lose hundreds of millions, foreign trust, foreign investment as well as paralyzing the Capital of the state. Nawaz Sharif was proven guilty and sent to jail, PMLN succeeded in making the institutions fool and Nawaz Sharif flew to the UK for medical treatment. In 2018, the ineligibility of Nawaz Sharif, Panama leaks and support of the number of people of the nation gave Imran Khan a chance to win the majority vote in National assembly. Forced to habit, the opposition instead of efficiently working with the government for the welfare of state, jointly formed PDM to demolish PTI’s government. Protests, long march, boycotts became the fate of Pakistan and which couldn’t affect the government much but, to lead to vote of no confidence in April, 2022 which resulted in Imran Khan’s removal. PTI blames PDM for joining hands with US in their regime change strategy. Even during PTI’s government, the instable economy was in the destiny of Pakistan. Currently, Shahbaz Sharif is the Prime Minister of the State and the economic conditions are nowhere near to a betterment; a total chaos.

The fake promises of every government has left the nation with nothing but empty bank accounts, economic collapse, inflation, extreme foreign debt, intolerance and extremism among its own people. The prime reason to every government’s failure is more or less their self- priorities. It was and is never about the betterment of state and its people but the authority, rivalry and seat. Every government without any discrimination focused on plans which would temporarily benefit the Nation during their tenure but, later due to huge foreign debt and IMF instructions, the country suffers inflation and hurdles in development of the country. Moreover, every new government finds the work of the former useless and terminate the projects, plans and policies initiated by them. This restricts the foreign investors from huge investments as more political instability leads to more economic deceleration.

Another huge drawback is that every government demands the state’s institutions to work their way, for example; the security departments’ ultimate duty is to protect the state from internal and external threats but what they do nowadays is to arrest the opponent leaders, raid their houses, protect red zone and blindly work under government’s thumb.

The biggest threat to Pakistan is its own poisonous politics. The political parties do not find their victory in providing the Nation with excellence and betterment but, the lust of power and hatred has forced the public to witness a psychotic political behavior. Election campaigns, days of protests in Islamabad, societal unrest and cyber-attacks have become a trend which has divided the Nation into groups.

Pakistan is on the verge of losing everything. IMF and other states have either denied or are delaying in providing aid to the country and the major reason is the political unrest but, a bitter reality is that politics cannot be ignored as it plays a prime role in connecting Pakistan on national and international levels. Political stability shall be the ultimate goal as it would help in formation of beneficial policies and would allow the institutions to work in a normal way which would only make Pakistan a healthy developed state. This 75th year and the years coming ahead can be good for Pakistan if elections are truly conducted on their time and the losing parties instead of creating a chaos, aids the ruling party in running the affairs of Pakistan smoothly.

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