Academic journal article International Journal on World Peace

Regime Type or Political Instability? Why Pakistan De-Escalates or Enters Wars

Academic journal article International Journal on World Peace

Regime Type or Political Instability? Why Pakistan De-Escalates or Enters Wars

Article excerpt

The recent anti-government demonstrations in Pakistan, coupled with increasing instances of ceasefire violations on the border with India (JulySeptember 2014), beg the classic question: Does regime stability affect inter-state conflicts? With different political groups calling for the resignation of the current Sharif government and asking for fresh elections, one wonders whether the corresponding escalation in border conflicts with India has domestic objectives or international objectives.

Much of the work on inter-state conflicts between India and Pakistan has been studied within the context of their enduring rivalry. The rivalry between India and Pakistan has witnessed four wars and a series of crises under the shadow of nuclear weapons. The rivalry threatens more than a billion people in South Asia with nuclear holocaust, terrorism, and state failure. It has repercussions on the two states' relations with other regional and great powers, such as China, Russia, and the USA.

Yet, there have also been variances within this rivalrous relationship: some bilateral crises1 were peaceably resolved (1951, 1984, 1987, 1990, and 2001-2002), and others escalated to war (1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999). These differences give rise to an important question: If the rivalry between India and Pakistan has been a constant for so many years, what explains the variances within it? In other words, what explains why some crises escalate into war while others de-escalate into peaceful (albeit far from amicable) relations?

This paper presents trend lines using the Polity IV dataset and subsequently presents studies of the individual events to demonstrate that differences in regime type (military or civilian) during the above-mentioned events does not affect Pakistan's decisions to make war or de-escalate. Given that India has remained a democracy during the studied events, the finding that the nature of the Pakistani regime-whether it be civilian, military, or mixed-has no observable effect on its decisions to enter conflicts challenges the applicability of the "democratic peace" theory to the Indo-Pakistani rivalry.2

Rather, our findings show that Pakistan enters wars with India when facing political instability threatening regime change from a civilian to a military regime and vice versa. Our explanation is based on Thompson and Tucker's insight that regime change, both toward and away from popular participation in politics, increases a state's propensity to make war.3 Their explanation, in turn, improves on Mansfield and Snyder's insight that regime change towards democratization increases states' propensity to make war.4

This paper contributes to explanations of wars and crises between India and Pakistan because, despite a substantial body of inter-state level explanations on the topic, current explanations focusing on domestic factors inadequately explain Pakistani decisions with clear predictive capacity.5 Furthermore, other than policy applications, the paper extends theoretical research on why oscillations in hostility occur within such protracted rivalries.6

The next section presents the research design and explains the particular methods utilized in the studies. The following section explains why prior research using international and domestic level factors inadequately explains Pakistani behavior. Then this paper attempts to address such weaknesses. The subsequent empirical section first presents a set of trend lines that appear to support our hypothesis, and subsequently in-depth studies of the selected events to demonstrate that variation in political stability affects Pakistani behavior.


The paper first tests the posited explanations by presenting trend lines using the Polity IV dataset that shows covariation, which suggests a pattern. While a regression framework is unsuitable for the purposes of this paper due to insufficient data points, the covariation justifies the deeper study of the phenomena at hand. …

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