Working Paper: A Framework to Model the India—Pakistan Conflict Escalation

By Pranay Kotasthane

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The India-Pakistan conflict has variously been described as an ‘enduring rivalry' or a ‘protracted conflict’ — characterised by its long duration, recurrence of armed exchanges, and the involvement of state and non-state actors. This entrenched conflict began with the birth of the two states in 1947, and it has continued ever since, with the periodic resumption of wars and crises.

The limited aim of this paper is to provide a descriptive framework that can explain the dynamics of this enduring rivalry. The analytical framework is meant to encourage discussions on the security dilemma facing the Indian subcontinent. The endeavour is to explain the nuances involved during times of hostility between the two countries, providing policy makers with the right starting point for designing a de-escalation policy.

The highlights of the conflict escalation framework presented in the chapter are:

  • there is an asymmetry in nuclear & conventional thresholds between the two countries;
  • the strategies of the two nation-states to alter their respective nuclear and conventional threshold levels are in diametrically opposing directions;
  • there are a total of five conflict levels possible between India and Pakistan;
  • the levels of conflicts preferable to India are different from the ones desired by Pakistan; and finally
  • the pathways of conflict escalation are different for both states.

The India—Pakistan conflict escalation framework

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