The Role of Pakistani Political Parties in the Kashmir Dispute


The Kashmir dispute is one of the most long-standing issues between the two South Asian neighbours, India and Pakistan. It is a complex issue that has historical, social, political, and even ethnic angles and political parties, both in India and Pakistan have tried to play a role in the shaping as well as trying to resolve this dispute. The origins of the dispute go back to the so called uprising of Kashmiri separatists with the help of Pakistan to achieve independence from Indian control (Cohen, 2002 ). In Pakistan, the assistance that was given to Kashmiris is considered to be a matter of pride however, it is considered that even in this context, Pakistan’s role was not decisive (Cohen, 2002 ).


The fact that the dispute is still unresolved after decades, speaks to the complex and difficult nature of this issue. This thesis is focussed on the role played by the Pakistani political parties in trying to resolve this dispute. Since the Tashkent Agreement after the 1975 India-Pakistan war, the two principal political parties in Pakistan have sought to play an important role in Kashmir dispute; however, literature shows that the role is complicated by the Pakistani Military’s involvement in the issue (Haqqani, 2003). Pakistani political parties have also sought to be close to the Kashmiri mainstream politicians as well as the separatist parties in Kashmir including the Hurriyat (Cohen, 2002 ). Thus, on one hand, Pakistani political parties have engaged with the Indian government by premising Kashmir as a bilateral dispute or issue. On the other hand, Pakistani parties and military also engage with Kashmiri parties. It is however argued that in following such different methods of engaging with the Kashmir dispute, the Pakistani political parties have not had a proper policy on dealing with this issue and have in fact shown lack of an “end-game” and have instead been driven by the fear of India and national identity issues (Haqqani, 2003). Also important is the fact of political interests and mileage that may drive politicians and negotiators in Pakistan to take a specific approach to Kashmir (Vaish, 2011). Therefore, it can be said that there are a number of gaps in the Pakistani political establishment’s approach to the Kashmir dispute and due to these gaps, there is a lack of coherent and sustainable policy that is aimed at resolution of the dispute. This argument can be substantiated by the fact that despite the long drawn conflict and dispute in Kashmir, Pakistani political parties have not been able to resolve the issue (Cheema, 2015).

Pakistani and Indian establishment have different views on taking the engagement further, with Pakistani parties having views that American involvement through mediation should be greater (Behera, 2002). Pakistani parties have also been more effective in dealing with Kashmiri politicians directly as compared to dealing with Indian politicians; this is partly due to the religious connect between Pakistan and Kashmir (Tavares, 2008). However, it is also contended that instead of playing a more positive role in Kashmir, Pakistani politicians and establishments have supported violent insurgent movements that have included “imported itinerant insurgents” which has led to an historical disregard for Kashmiri populations and have contributed to the festering of the Kashmiri conflict and problem (Schofield & Tremblay, 2008). It is argued that these actions are based in an aversion to grass-roots political movements in Kashmir (Schofield & Tremblay, 2008). Therefore, the argument is that instead of contributing to the resolution of the conflict around Kashmir, the Pakistani establishment has added to the conflict.

Therefore, to see the effectiveness of Pakistani political parties in this context, it would be useful to consider the extent to which Pakistani political parties have succeeded in aligning Indian and Kashmiri political parties to the Pakistani position and whether Pakistani parties have been successful in taking the engagement further and bringing the dispute closer to resolution.

Research questions

The overarching research question that is posed in this thesis is related to the role of the political parties in resolving the Kashmir dispute, and it is posed as follows:

What role is played by the mainstream political parties in Pakistan in the resolving of the Kashmir dispute?

There are related research questions that are identified at this stage in the research. These are as follows:

What political parties in Pakistan have played a dominant role with relation to the resolving of the Kashmir dispute?

Do political parties engage with Indian and Kashmiri politicians separately on Kashmir issue? If so, how does it impact their role in Kashmir?

What is the relationship between political parties and the military establishment in the context of the Kashmir dispute? How does it impact the role of the political parties in Pakistan on the Kashmir issue?

Theoretical approaches

The two theoretical approaches that can be considered here are realism and liberalism. Realism and even neorealism approaches emphasise on the desire of the states to increase their powers vis a vis other states; this is applicable even when the states collaborate as their motivation even for such collaboration is the emphasis on the increase of their own powers. Realists emphasise on the creation of powerful states and self-preservation. On the other hand, liberalism focusses on cooperation and coordination and therefore, interdependence between states. Globalisation, development of communications technology, and increase in international trade have all had the impact of increasing the relevance of liberalism.

The complex interdependency theory is also used as a combination of the realism and liberalism approaches to explain international relations between states that are based on interdependent relations, and the awareness that economic power may be more advantageous than military power and therefore, the consequences of increasing the military power at the expense of economic power may be negative under certain conditions. The term ‘complex interdependence’ was first employed by Buell (1925) who wrote about the need to restructure the ordering of economies, nations and cultures because of the social interdependence between states (Buell, 1925). The theoretical concept is based on the rise in complex transnational connections and interdependencies between states, which may mean that neither realism, nor liberalism may explain why political parties react the way they do to international relations (Keohane & Nye, 1997). The liberal approach to international relations is based on dependence and interdependence, which have been defined as follows:

“Dependence means a state of being determined or significantly affected by external forces. Interdependence, most simply defined, means mutual dependence. Interdependence in world politics refers to situations characterized by reciprocal effects among countries or among actors in different countries” (Keohane & Nye, 1997, p. 123).

Political positioning may at times be affected by external forces (dependence) and at others may remain interdependent of such external forces (mutual dependence). Complex interdependence emphasises on the use of multiple channels of action in transnational relations; not focussing on a hierarchy of issues with changing agendas and linkages; and decrease in the use of military and coercive power in international relations (Keohane & Nye, 1997). The question is which theoretical approach or approaches may explain how Pakistani political parties are responding to the issue of Kashmir. It is possible that different political parties have been influenced by different motivations in how they approach the Kashmir dispute (Hussain, 2009). The theories discussed above may provide a theoretical perspective with which the Kashmir dispute resolution by Pakistani political parties can be understood. Some of the actions taken by the Pakistani political parties of the mainstream with respect to their political positioning on Kashmir dispute suggests that any of these theories are relevant at one time or the other to understand the approach of the parties. This is discussed below.

One of the important steps taken by the government of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was to invite the Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to Pakistan in 1999 for the inaugural run of the Delhi-Lahore bus service.

This positioning was different from the earlier aggressive posture by both countries due to the Kashmir issue. Contrary to the earlier positioning, a more cooperative stance by taken by the leaders of both nations, as they discussed an entire range of bilateral relations and regional cooperation within SAARC (Hussain, 2009). The Lahore Declaration was signed in 1999 which emphasised on the “shared vision of peace and stability” (Hussain, 2009). Similarly, the two leaders took a more positive view towards the ‘Chenab formula’ in 2003; the formula was first discussed between India and Pakistan in 1962-63 at the initiation by former foreign secretary Niaz A. Naik (Hussain, 2009). Similarly, under the government of President Pervez Musharraf, a proposal was floated for the creation of seven demilitarised zones in J & K, allowing the two countries to move beyond their stated positions on Kashmir (Hussain, 2009). The posturing by the then government of Pakistan was even contrary to the earlier stated position on Kashmir and the United Nations Security resolutions, which the main political party of Pakistan at the time was willing to look beyond in an attempt to have better relations with India. They even dropped the longstanding demand for a UN- mandated plebiscite over divided Kashmir (Hussain, 2009). These events suggest that there have been collaborative influences in how Pakistani politicians position their stance towards Kashmir dispute. These demonstrate liberalism approach.

On the other hand, events like the Kargil war suggest that there is also realism at play because a militaristic approach has also been taken from time to time by Pakistani politicians towards Kashmir. Moreover, all Pakistani political parties have emphasised on the need to keep developing nuclear weapons, which is indicative of a realist approach to balance of power with Indian and is also defined by the Kashmir conflict as the Kashmir issue is the major source of conflict between the two countries.

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Research methods

This research is informed by the qualitative methods of research. Qualitative research methodology is appropriate for research studies that seek in depth and deeper insight into a complex and multi-layered area of research (Collins, 2010). This research study is one such study that will involve complexity and nuances, for which a qualitative approach is appropriate. Qualitative research method allows the research to have an open and flexible framework for research, which can help the researcher when the data is possibly of the nature of multiple narratives or nuances around the research topic (Berg, et al., 2004). Such flexible frameworks, as are allowed by the qualitative research design are useful when the researcher needs more freedom to collect in depth information unbound by the rigid framework of quantitative research method, and to interpret such multi-layered data (Silverman, 2013).

The research will be guided by the positivism philosophy, which allows the researcher to accept some assumptions about the data (Collins, 2010). In this study, the researcher is driven by the need to gain more insight into the successes and failures of the political parties in Pakistan for finding a resolution to the Kashmir dispute. This is a complex area of study, which may also see a number of varied and opposing points of view in the literature on the subject. By adopting a positivism oriented research framework, the researcher will be objective in approach which will allow the researcher to identify and analyse the data in an objective and scientific manner. Keeping in mind the purpose of the research and the objectives and goals of this researcher, positivism philosophy has been selected for informing the methods for identifying, collecting and analysing data (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe, & Jackson, 2002). The data collected for this research will be in the nature of secondary data, where the researcher will search for data manually and electronically (Sevilla, et al., 2007, p. 92). Primary data in the form of government reports, statements, and correspondence available on open sources will also be selected for this research study.

The method of document analysis will be used for this study. This involves systematic review and evaluation of documents (Bowen, 2009). Document analysis will be useful for examining and evaluating the role of political parties. A systematic literature review is useful for helping the researcher locate high-quality literature from databases so that all the available, relevant, and accessible literature is being referred to by the researcher (Bettany-Saltikov, 2012). The advantages of using a systematic review include the systematic and methodological process, avoidance of bias, and possibility of identifying a large number of sources (Bettany-Saltikov, 2012). A systematic literature review allows the researcher to conduct a meta-synthesis of all relevant and available data because the researcher can collate “all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question” (Green, et al., 2011, p. 6). Because the method is explicit, it helps the researcher to decrease in bias by formulating a search string, and sifting through the search findings to identify all relevant sources of literature (Green, et al., 2011). This would also decrease the possibility of subjectivity because the researcher will have to select all literature that fits into the pre-determined inclusion criteria. This would also align with the positivism philosophy. For this research study, secondary sources will include peer reviewed journal articles, books, and reports that are available on the electronic data bases (Green, et al., 2011).

The thematic analysis method will be used to analyse the data as this will allow the researcher to better organise and analyse the data as well as present it thematically. In the current research study, it is expected that the qualitative data will be copious and present some challenges in analysis and meta-synthesis for which the thematic analysis method will be appropriate (Jones, 2004). Using this method, the researcher will identify the key and recurrent themes in the data that are related to the research questions already formulated (Bearman & Dawson, 2013). In a multi-layered and complex area of research, a thematic analysis method can be useful for restricting the researcher to only the relevant areas of research and discussion. This research study is expected to have nuance and different themes because it involves the exploration of the different ways in which political parties in Pakistan have responded to the resolution of Kashmir dispute. The thematic analysis method will help the researcher to assign codes to the important themes that are discovered in the document analysis as well and use these themes for answering the research questions involved in the study.

Ethical concerns

This research study does not utilise primary methods of research with participants, therefore ethical concerns are limited to those that are related to secondary research methods. These include the issue of credibility of the secondary data sources that will be relied upon in the study. This issue will be addressed by referring only to quality academic work in peer reviewed journals and academic reference books. Another ethical issue is potential researcher bias in identification of the literature. This is resolved by using a systematic literature review method so that literature is identified on the basis of its answering to inclusion criteria that is predetermined.


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