ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The politico-ideological impact of a protracted conflict on democratic backsliding in India and Pakistan


Kuszewska-Bohnert Agnieszka - Jagiellonian University, Institute of the Middle and Far East, Krakow, Poland


22 – The present democratic crisis in South Asia: causes, distinctive elements and historical precedents


 The unresolved conflict between India and Pakistan, manifested by recurring tensions, deep-rooted mistrust, and mutual accusations of a confrontational approach, has profoundly shaped political discourses in both countries. The main assumption of the paper is that this historically inherited enmity not only remains a major hurdle to regional development, thus not serving the interests of Indian and Pakistani societies, but is also one of the key factors that contribute to the democratic backsliding in India and Pakistan.

In 2021, the University of Gothenburg-based V-Dem Institute, which exposes global democratic decline, downgraded India from ‘electoral democracy’ to ‘electoral autocracy’. Not only downgrading, but also putting India on par with Pakistan evoked a harsh reaction of the Indian government, which staunchly rejects any international criticism and comparison to its rival. Meanwhile, the intentional and ideologically motivated projection of the neighbour as the arch enemy serves the Indian and Pakistani ruling elites as a tool to mobilise voters, to communalise bilateral interactions, and to strengthen institutional systematic discrimination of religious minorities domestically. The paper investigates these politico-ideological connotations, looks at Indian and Pakistani narratives comparatively, and provides examples of how the conflict bolsters aggressive nationalism and, consequently, leads to corruption of democratic values and institutions in both states.