Indian Identity Narratives and the Politics of Security

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Gitika Commuri

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    List of Abbreviations

    AIADMKAll India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
    APHCAll Parties Hurriyat Conference
    ARFAsian Regional Forum
    ASEANAssociation of South East Asian Nations
    BJPBharatiya Janata Party
    CBMConfidence Building Measures
    CCPChinese Communist Party
    CCSCabinet Committee on Security
    CDACritical Discourse Analysis
    CICAConference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia
    CPI-MCommunist Party of India-Marxist
    CRPFCentral Reserve Police Force
    CTBTComprehensive Test Ban Treaty
    DGMODirectors General Military Operations
    DRDODefence Research and Development Organization
    HMHizb-ul-Mujahideen
    HMSHindu Mahasabha
    ICHRIndian Council of Historical Research
    IRInternational Relations
    ISIPakistan's Inter Services Intelligence
    JKJammu and Kashmir
    JKLFJammu and Kashmir Liberation Front
    JWGJoint Working Group
    LACLine of Actual Control
    LAHDCLadakh Autonomous Hill Development Council
    LoCLine of Control
    MoUMemorandum of Understanding
    NCJammu and Kashmir National Conference
    NDANational Democratic Alliance
    NEFANorth-East Frontier Agency
    NPTNuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
    PDPPeoples Democratic Party
    POKPakistan Occupied Kashmir
    POTAPrevention of Terrorism Act
    RSSRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
    SAARCSouth Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
    SARSSevere Acute Respiratory Syndrome
    SITSocial Identity Theorists
    SOGSpecial Operations Group
    TADATerrorist and Disruptive Activities Act
    TDPTelugu Desam Party
    VHPVishwa Hindu Parishad

    Prologue

    This study is based in the constructivist literature which argues that identity conceptions influence state behaviour. Identities (understood as self-other relations) are seen as foundational to state interests, both in terms of end goals and strategies. In this study, I examine the construction of the secular and religious-cultural self in India, and the implications of these national discourses for engagement with others. Thus, the study focuses on discourses of national identity (1926–2003) and events (1990–2003) to understand if, and in what manner, conceptions of national self have influenced engagement with others. The study examines India's relations with Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan and China. The findings of this study are surprising. Briefly, both secular and religious-cultural conceptions of the self, perceived Pakistan and Kashmir as dangerous, as they challenged not only Indian identity but also territoriality. China, on the other hand, is the historical political other. In the instance of Kashmir, the policy implications of such a convergence of national discourses led to the adoption of similar strategies of force and negotiation. But in the case of Pakistan and China, while political parties influenced by religious-cultural identity appeared to be more conflict prone than parties influenced by secular identity, they were also more cooperative in other circumstances.

    These findings lead us to make the following observations that contribute to our understanding of the role of identity in international relations: that the relationship between internal and external others must be treated with caution as the treatment of internal and external others may vary; that different identity discourses may lead to similar perceptions of threat though not necessarily similar policies; that secular, inclusive tolerant identities do not necessarily engage in more cooperative action as opposed to religious-cultural, exclusive identities; that under certain circumstances, identity conceptualizations (especially religious-cultural) may lead to more conflict-prone action; and finally, that while identity discourses help us understand broad goals of the state, they do not necessarily explain the strategies adopted in dealing with the national or international other. The findings also caution us against making assumptions about Indian security and foreign policy practices in the context of national identity discourses.

    Acknowledgements

    I owe a debt of gratitude to my graduate mentor Dr Hayward Alker, who was and still remains an intellectual presence in my work and life, even though he is no more. I am also grateful to Dr Laurie Brand and Dr Philippa Levine for their constructive encouragement and support. This work would not have been possible without them. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Rajen Harshe who introduced me to the fascinating world of international politics and encouraged me to be intellectually curious. I also consider myself fortunate to receive the advice and mentoring of Dr Rajat Ganguly.

    Along the way, my friends and family have supported me in numerous ways, too numerous to mention. In particular, my husband, Dr Chandrasekhar Commuri has been a true partner and friend. He has been subjected to every single argument, word and countless drafts of this work, and is in a sense, a co-author of this body of work. I would also like to convey my appreciation to the anonymous reviewers, and the editorial team at SAGE, in particular to Ms Elina Majumdar, who through her questions and suggestions, enabled me to refine my arguments. I would also like to thank Mr Vikas Jain.

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    About the Author

    Gitika Commuri is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, California State University Bakersfield, USA and has a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Southern California. Her research interests include international relations, international political economy and comparative political analysis. Her paper ‘The Relevance of National Identity Narratives in Shaping Foreign Policy: The Case of India-Pakistan Relations’ was recently published in Journal of South Asian Development (2009). She has regularly presented papers at International Studies Association Conventions in San Francisco.


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