Perceiving the Enemy Differently: A Psycho-cultural Analysis of Pakistan–India Conflict

Published date01 August 2019
Date01 August 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Perceiving the Enemy
Differently: A Psycho-
cultural Analysis of
Pakistan–India Conflict
Jawad Kadir1
By using an interdisciplinary approach, this article seeks to examine Pakistan–
India partition and their on-going rivalry which is a permanent threat to the South
Asian regional security. This article analyses the Pakistan–India conflict through a
fresh psycho-cultural framework to explain both states’ endless competitive urge
to outpace each other. I will describe the attributes of the indigenous ‘culture
of conflict’ in both countries and use them as an ‘analogy’. This article develops
a conflict theory to explain the rationale behind such an emotion-laden rivalry
between the two nations. The conflict theory presented in this article (which
can be termed as Sharike-Bazi [Culture of Conflict]) explains that peoples’ con-
flict behaviours in Pakistan and India are rooted in their earliest socialisation
within primary kinship institutions. In Pakistan and India, the indigenous ‘culture
of conflict’ emanates from the segmentation of the most pervasive and influ-
ential institutions, the kinship institutions. The moralities of conflict behaviour
learned within these institutions are extrapolated to every other institution in
the outside world. Therefore, psychologically, the indigenous ‘culture of conflict’
creates certain moral views affecting the conflict behaviour of people as well as
policymakers. It provides them with cultural moralities to pursue this zero-sum
interstate conflict.
India–Pakistan, culture of conflict, psycho-cultural analysis, conflict behaviour,
Batwara, Sharike-Bazi conflict theory
1 The Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.
Corresponding author:
Jawad Kadir, B-64, County South, PPR Department, County College, Lancaster University, LA1 4YD,
United Kingdom.
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
6(2) 189–216, 2019
The Author(s) 2019
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2347797019842445
190 Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 6(2)
The India–Pakistan conflict is said to be simultaneously over territory, national
identity and power position in the region (Paul, 2005, pp. 3–8). The obsession
with India is a key factor in determining Pakistan’s foreign and domestic policies,
which ‘start’ and ‘end’ at Indian borders (Cohen, 2013). India and Pakistan have
been locked in an open hostility since their inception. They have fought three
conventional wars and several armed conflicts, such as Kargil. They regularly
display their nuclear capability to outpace each other, which is always a question
mark on the South Asian/Asian security.
A large number of nation-states came into being as a result of intergroup
conflicts on political, ideological, religious, territorial, or ethnic grounds, but
many of them have resolved their mutual conflicts or at least managed them to
move forward (Bar-Tal, 2013, pp. 1–8). However, India and Pakistan have been
psychologically obsessed with their conflicts since their partition in 1947. It can
be explained, in part, as a result of conflicting versions of partition history taught
in both countries to demonise the other (Aziz, 1993; Gautier, 1996). Nevertheless,
people-to-people limited interaction after partition can also be regarded as an
additional factor for their continuing obsession with each other. India–Pakistan
conflict seems to possess minimum material value when compared to the huge
emotional energies invested by both nations. From a Pakistani perspective, this
paper seeks to examine the reasons behind both nations’ obsession with each other
which do not let them forget the past events.
Numerous theories have tried to explain the causal factors for the on-going
rivalry between Pakistan and India. Realism and neorealism focus on ‘fear’ factor
for Pakistan’s pursuance of ‘power’ for its survival (Rizvi, 1993, pp. 1–17). The
rational models present logical reason that a powerful and hostile neighbour can
compel a (weak) state like Pakistan to attain the capacity for defence. However, I
argue that such explanations are inadequate to explain India–Pakistan conflict
dynamics in its entirety. They can’t explain a firm Pakistani ‘faith’ that they can
defeat a country ten times larger than their own. My conjecture is that such extra-
aggressive and ‘irrational’ conflict behaviours should also be analysed from a
psychological perspective.
In contrast to existing academic literature which holds an international system
of anarchy and material interests responsible for the Pakistan–India rivalry, this
article examines the existing landscape of conflict from a different psycho-
cultural framework to understand Pakistan’s behaviour in its conflict dynamics
with India. This paper examines Pakistan–India conflict by using the attributes of
their indigenous ‘culture of conflict’, which emanates from the segmentation of
the most pervasive kinship institutions of ‘joint family’ and ‘lineage’ in both
countries. Despite emphasising much upon the role of ‘institutions’, the political
analysts have often ignored the most initial, most salient, most emotionally
powerful and the most functional ‘kinship institutions’ in both countries while
examining their conflict.

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