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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

India’s most difficult foreign policy challenge has been Pakistan. At one level, the relationship has been managed reasonably well given the fundamental contradiction between India’s status quo-ist approach on Kashmir and Pakistan’s determination to alter the status quo. At another, Indian policy-makers’ inability to meet the challenge effectively reflects the constraints imposed by major policy choices. Jawaharlal Nehru opted for a set of ‘independent’ strategic and economic policies that congealed into ‘non-alignment’ and ‘self-sufficiency’. This left India militarily and economically weak and unable to counter Pakistan’s sustained bid to wrest Kashmir. A later set of choices encompasses failure to anticipate the consequences of Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear capability, reluctance to match Islamabad’s asymmetric strategy of pressurizing India, and a tendency to slip back into the autonomy-oriented policy template of the Cold War era. Consequently, India’s capacity to fashion an optimal policy towards Pakistan continues to be significantly constrained.

Keywords: India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Jawaharlal Nehru, nuclear capability, asymmetric strategy

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