Kashmir and Ontological Security: Re-evaluating the Role of Self-identities in a Multi- layered Conflict

Published date01 August 2022
Date01 August 2022
Subject MatterResearch Articles
Research Article
Kashmir and Ontological
Security: Re-evaluating
the Role of Self-identities
in a Multi-layered
Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy1
The majority of the literature on causes and sustenance of the Kashmir conflict
has disregarded a vital factor—that the conflict is multi-layered, meaning it is both
internal and external in nature. Contemporary conflicts are often explained by
the dominating theories of international relations or the new wars theories that
deal with internal conflicts. The dominating theories of international Relations,
that is, realism and liberalism, assign significance to state-centrism and external
threats by overshadowing internal and domestic causal factors of the conflict. On
the other hand, prominent new wars theories such as the greed and grievance
theories focus on domestic and internal factors of the conflict while shelving
the external causal factors. On their own, both theories fail to explain multi-
layered conflicts. This article intends to provide a synchronous explanation of the
external and domestic causes of the multi-layered conflict in Kashmir by using the
theory of ontological security, that is, security of self-identity.
Ontological security, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, inter-state wars, multi-layered conflicts
A theory is always for someone, and some purpose (Cox, 1981), and the discipline
of international relations (IR) is no exemption to it. Today, the dominating
theories of IR continue to be influenced by the experiences of inter-state conflicts
and external threats faced by the world during the two world wars and the Cold
War. As a result, these theories focus on external threats and overshadow issues
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
9(2) 255–279, 2022
© The Author(s) 2022
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23477970221098477
Disclaimer: The opinions and arguments expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They
do not purport to ref‌lect the opinions or views of any organisation or its members.
1 Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, India
Corresponding author:
Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi 110002, India.
E-mail: gsaditya02@gmail.com
256 Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 9(2)
of domestic politics, state legitimacy, nation-building (Holsti, 1995), internal
security and identities.
By using the term ‘dominating theories’, this article exclusively deals with the
mainstream and widely used theories of the IR discipline, that is, realism and
liberalism (Mallavarapu, 2012), and their forms—classical realism, neo-realism,
neoclassical realism, democratic peace theory (DPT), commercial liberalism
(Mehsud, 2017) and neo-liberalism. This article excludes reflectivist theories,
including constructivism, as it only intends to demonstrate the limitations of the
dominating IR theories in explaining the multi-layered conflicts.
However, with the end of the Cold War and bipolar competition, the world was
drawn towards internal conflicts and their novel nature and objectives. The study of
these conflicts was popularly categorised and theorised as ‘new wars’ by Mary
Kaldor (1996, 2005, 2013). These ‘new wars’ were considered to have emerged in
a post-Westphalian world order where the state system was losing prominence, and
conflicts were caused due to domestic factors. The theories of greed and grievances
were thus developed to explain the causes and features of civil wars and internal
conflicts. They respectively focussed on intra-state and domestic factors such as
state institutions, opportunism, self-interests, resource availabilities, non-state
actors and the grief of agents.
Nevertheless, both ‘new wars’ and the dominating theories of IR fall short of
explaining the multi-layered conflicts as they lack an in-depth analysis of both
domestic and international factors. The theory of ontological security to explain the
multi-layered conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, henceforth referred to as the Kashmir
conflict. Ontological security refers to the state’s keenness of preserving/securitising
its self-identity (Steele, 2008).
The source of self-identity continues to be debated within the ontological security
literature. Steele (2008) has an internalist or endogenous perspective. He argues that
self-identities are derived through the domestic production of self-understandings,
such as domestic policies, narratives and actions. Mitzen (2006) has an externalist
or exogenous perspective. She argues that self-identities are formed externally
from a state’s routine practices and relationships with other states.
This article bridges the gap between these two arguments. It argues that states
have already constructed a self-identity or understanding of themselves before
interacting with others (Steele, 2008). This means that the endogenously formed
self-identities and ontological security influence the inter-state interactions of the
states. Further, as these inter-state interactions are routinised with time, they
provide an exogenous self-identity and ontological security to the states too.
However, since states prioritise maintaining their ontological security, these
endogenous and exogenous self-identities begin to co-exist, interact and influence
the states’ internal and external policies.
In other words, Kashmir is core to the endogenous self-identities of India and
Pakistan. This significance has persuaded both states to adopt policies that have
contributed to claims and internal and external conflicts of Kashmir, and thus,
influencing their routine negative interactions and shaping their exogenous
self-identities of seeing themselves as an adversary of the other. Moreover, as this
exogenous self-identity solidified, it has influenced, co-existed and interacted

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT