Pakistan’s hard misplacement and the politics of regional identity

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Pakistan has been a misplaced state from its birth. Created as a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Subcontinent, it considers itself to be a misfit in a multi-faith, South Asian region dominated by India. This paper analyses Pakistan’s misplaced identity utilising the layered model of identity change. The model helps us focus on various foreign-policy roles that Pakistan performs. The deepest layer (most resistant to change) denotes Pakistan’s identity as a sovereign and independent state, outlining the roles of an alliance partner and a nuclear power. The middle layer represents the identity of Pakistan as an insecure state with the roles of a ‘chancer’ state, a regional intermediary and the regional leader. The top (and least sedimented) layer points to Pakistan’s identity as a Muslim state, giving birth to the hoped-for roles of the leader of the Muslim world, an Islamic crusader, and the defender of the faith. However, Pakistan has been unable to gain acknowledgement for these roles either in South Asia or elsewhere. The country’s attempts to re-imagine a cognitive home for itself in the Middle East have also not come to fruition. It continues to be a misplaced state, cognitively dissociated from its geographic home.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-554
Number of pages13
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number4
Early online date3 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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