Kashmir Confusion

Image of gate at Wagah border
Gate at Wagah border post between India and Pakistan
Credit: “The border” by Sheep’R’Us is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Daniel W. Lee is a Marketing major with a Religious Studies minor from the University of Alabama. He plans to continue his studies of religion after his graduation this May.

The threat of nuclear war loomed over Asia earlier this Fall. The dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan was the basis for this threat, escalating tensions dramatically between these two countries. The article Pakistan’s Ambiguity Over Nuclear War Comes to the Fore from The Times of India discussed how Kashmir is caught between these two countries and has cultural and religious identifications with both that go back generations. Like Pakistan, Kashmir is primarily occupied by Muslims, but it also has had legal ties to India since the area’s independence from Great Britain’s direct political control. This article manipulates its presentation in an effort to give India the clear advantage in the confrontation.

Recently Kashmir’s legal deal with India detailing who can own land in Kashmir ended in a dramatic way that has sent ripples through the national stage. The Prime Minister of India, who identifies as a Hindu Nationalist, ended the special status of Muslims in Kashmir. This development now allows non-Kashmiri residents to move into the area. This change has raised significant questions over Kashmir’s allegiance with either of these nations. With this disagreement come substantial questions about identity construction within political issues. The dispute over Kashmir is a clear instance of religious, ethnic, and moral identities formulated by different sides to support their own positions of interest.

This Indian publication constructs identities that help its national agenda. The writer, while attempting to seem impartial, slants the issue against Pakistan through the villainized identity that the writer has constructed for the opposing nation. Phrases like, “Hence, while India is largely united over Kashmir, Pakistan seems to be confused,” unmistakably draw a line between an “Us” and a “Them.” The author from The Times of India creates a moral hierarchy in which this newspaper places the nation of India on top, towering over its political opponents. Pakistan is presented as brutish, forceful, and aggressive while India is shown to take the high ground on the issue. All the while, the reality of the situation is more complicated. People are dying due to the political upheaval the Indian government has caused in Kashmir.

This article also constructs its representation in favor of the Indian position when claiming that the dispute over Kashmir is only internal to India. Pakistan calls on the international community for support while India claims that this dispute is an internal matter entirely. The Times of India published this article as the G7 international summit was approaching earlier this fall. This moment of extreme tension highlights how the classification of any issue can be done in a number of ways. This article by an Indian publication draws clear lines between the sides of this issue, as the author presents this simply as an internal Indian matter, even though that assertion is hotly disputed. This is done to give India the fervent upper hand politically.

This Indian article displays the reality that identities can be easily constructed in any dispute to give one party the advantage despite the complexity of the situation itself. This advantage can come from the place of moral or legal high ground. However, the interpretation of the facts in conjunction with political identity construction is often more telling of a group’s motivation than the facts themselves. In this case, the author of the Times of India article sets the standards in a way that gives India an advantage in the global sphere of debate surrounding an issue that they initiated. Through this example of the formulations of identities we can see how easily lines can be drawn in support of a specific opinion and to the detriment of others. As scholars, we must be careful that the lines we draw do not disenfranchise groups through the construction of a forced identity.