The Kashmir dispute is an on-going territorial conflict between Pakistan and India both having claims on the geopolitically significant land region. Both powers have fought 3 wars over it in just under 50 years along with several other skirmishes which are for the most part forgotten by the world. However, these were crucial for deciding the power balance in the south Asian region and in many ways continues to shape our present-day geopolitics as the chances of reconciliation look dimmer every passing day. This is why the Kashmir dispute is often described as the main driving force behind India’s and Pakistan’s distasteful relations and no matter how many talks occur, the reality seems to be that to current state of affairs will not change as diplomatic efforts have failed and the tides of war seem closer. This dispute is of course not without reason as Kashmir is a large stretch of land strategically important for both. Geographically, resources wise and ethnic religious population wise who ever controls the Kashmir region controls the future of south Asia. So, what caused the Kashmir dispute? What is the truth behind the bitter rivalry over that area between two nuclear power states? This report is going to reveal that in an unbiased manner additionally providing credible sources. The report is going to be discussing Importance of Kashmir for Pakistan, and India, history of Kashmir prior to subcontinent partition, history of Kashmir after partition, the Pakistani and Indian involvement, and its geopolitical effects on South Asian region.
Importance of Kashmir
Kashmir is a well geographically positioned area which is strategically important for Pakistan, India and to an extent China. It is a region both sides have fought 3 wars for to gain the upper hand and secure each country’s respective interests. These interests and concerns can be divided up into three subtopics:
For Pakistan Kashmir is an extremely important region as it is where a significant portion of Pakistan’s water comes in form of rivers. However, some of these rivers are under danger of being dried out by being diverted away for own use via large dams and canal projects proposed by Indian leaders and supported by the Indian general population. Secondly Kashmir connects Pakistan with China, as China is a big trade partner of Pakistan it is of high importance Kashmir stays in Pakistan and recently this importance has increased after Pakistan became part of China’s one belt one road initiative. Meanwhile, another big reason is that Kashmir is majority Muslim as hence should be allowed referendum to become part of Pakistan under ceasefire agreement. Other separate reasons include it being a big tourist attraction area because of its immense natural beauty.
Kashmir holds much importance for India as well, because if India gains full control of Kashmir it would be able to geographically connect with Afghanistan. India also desires full control of Kashmir to get full control of water flow into Pakistan and if needed stop Pakistan’s water during times of shaky relations. Having full control of Kashmir would disconnect China and Pakistan making India less vulnerable strategically from joint attack. It would also serve as a good defense for India geographically as Kashmir is a high-altitude place from where a mechanized military cannot transverse in large numbers. Lastly, India also values Kashmir’s great natural beauty and desires to use it and boast their tourism.
Kashmir holds much importance for China as well because the amount of area they control is important for water flow. It is also important for Chinas one belt one road initiative and Kashmir connects China with Pakistan giving access to Gwadar. Pakistan gave some of its territory to China as good will as that area is uninhabited and completely mountainous, but China uses it to build observation posts for keeping eye on Indian activities.
Subcontinent Partition and Kashmir
In 1947 the Indian subcontinent was being divided into two major states, India, and Pakistan. The basic idea was that Muslim majority states would go to Pakistan; Hindu majority states would go to India and the remaining princely states would pick a side or stay independent. However, during the partition due to complications of Hindu Muslim relations and last-minute changes to division map, massive violence erupted between Hindus and Muslims. Meanwhile two months after the partition Kashmir, a Muslim majority area (Kashmir) ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh a Hindu ruler who got monarchy status from Britain remained independent not having picked a side. This was due to work of the ruler Hari Singh who did this by signing a standstill agreement with Pakistan and India. This standstill agreement was insurance to both Pakistan and India that Kashmir would not be acceded to any side without dialogue with both.
Unrest in Kashmir
While the unrest in the subcontinent erupted near the partition date tensions were already high in Kashmir for a long time. As Kashmir was a Muslim majority area ruled by a Hindu ruler the Muslims felt they needed a Muslim representative party to voice their concerns which resulted in formation of the Muslim conference party in 1932. Tensions between the government and Muslim community grew when the Maharaja introduced heavy taxes on Muslims and Muslim protests were met with violence from Maharajas forces.
During Partition, the Maharaja indicated his preference to remain independent of the new dominions. All the major political groups of the state supported the Maharaja’s decision, except for the Muslim Conference which represented majority Muslim concerns, this party declared in favor of accession to Pakistan. Fearing an uprising the Maharaja confiscated and disarmed armaments from Muslims who were formerly conscripted into the British army or owned guns privately. Those weapons were distributed to local Hindu village’s defense forces looking at the situational unrest of the subcontinent where relations between Hindus and Muslims were violent.
The Massacres and Uprising
Around the same time many Hindus had fled to Kashmir from all the fighting between Muslims and Hindus in the southern areas and took refuge there. These refuges started telling horrible stories of the mass violence and fighting going on in the South from their perceptive which resulted in mass anger build up in local Hindus of Kashmir. This anger and hate transformed into mass killings and violence against the Muslims most of whom were at a disadvantage due to the earlier disarmament. These massacres resulted in multiple uprisings and resistance groups by the Muslims and naturally hate developed between both sides resulting in widespread fighting. All this became known as the Jammu massacres.
India and Pakistan
Meanwhile, Pakistan and India had their share of big problems to deal with; Pakistan had to face mass refugee crisis and Financial/Administrative crisis as many Muslims had migrated from India to Pakistan and India after partition did not hand over all the share of assets and money Pakistan was given during partition plan. Pakistan also faced a shortage of qualified manpower to run the military so British officers were appointed, Including Pakistan’s heads of Military.
India was also facing a refugee problem/Food problem of its own with many Hindus migrating from Pakistan to India. There was also the problem of unrest in internal pricey states. So, both sides were very busy with their own situation now after independence.
Tribal Forces Involvement
During the violence and uprising in Kashmir against the Maharajas forces, many Muslims had entered Pakistan into Pashtun tribal areas in Northern Pakistan. Most were immigrants while some were resistance group’s members who had come to procure weapons for the rebellion back in Kashmir. When the fleeing Muslims told their stories to the local tribal people. Those tribesmen organized massive expeditions to go assist the Muslim rebellion in Kashmir, acting without Pakistan administrations support and did not get support from Pakistan military because the military heads at the time were British who were against involvement in Kashmir. In any case the tribal forces marched into Kashmir and started assisting the rebellion forces against the Maharaja.
Indian and Pakistani Involvement
Looking at the situation, the Maharaja of Kashmir started to seek military assistance from India. Seeing this as an opportunity, the Indian governor general contended that it would be dangerous to send troops to a neutral state unless of course if Kashmir is acceded to India. The Maharaja being pressured by the uprising and politics decided to accept the proposal to suppress the threat. The Maharaja singed a temporary arrangement acceding Kashmir to India on October 26, 1947.
Pakistan disputed the accession, claiming that he had no right to sign an agreement with India while the standstill agreement with Pakistan was still in effect. The Pakistani side strongly rejected the idea of accession as it was a violation of the treaty and illegal move. Relations got tenser when the first Indian troops landed in Kashmir to fight the rebellion and Pashtun tribesmen and secure Kashmir, their very presence being there was a big escalator. This ultimately resulted in the Participation of Pakistan military troops in Kashmir and the first India Pakistan war of 1947.
During the war, the Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru proposed and promised a referendum in Kashmir saying that the state of Kashmiri people should be decided by the people. Not long after the dispute matter was raised in the united nations which resulted in resolution being passed on 13 August 1948 which demanded a cease fire and forces withdrawal of Both Pakistan and India (India had to withdraw most of its forces leaving behind minimum level required for law and order). Once that was done, a referendum was to be held allowing the people to decide their political future.
However, the troops on both sides were never withdrawn and the referendum never happened because Indian government knew most Kashmiri people will either be favorable towards independence or Pakistan. On January 1, 1949, a ceasefire agreement was agreed upon ending the Indo-Pak war of 1947
in a ceasefire. This resulted in Kashmir becoming a disputed territory between Pakistan and India. This division has still not been resolved today/
This dispute remains one of the main reasons why Indian-Pakistan’s relations are strained and cannot improve until the Kashmir dispute is settled. It is because of this reason India maintains around a big part of its military stationed in Indian administered Kashmir making it the most militarized area in the world. This resulted in tensions to grow and the boiling point crossed when in Indian Administered Kashmir the AFSPA (Armed forces special powers act) was passed in 1990 which gave armed forces immunity for crimes and they were free to arrest anyone on the pretext of national security.
This resulted in many human rights violations being committed by Indian military and as a chain reaction many anti-Indian protests and multiple separatist groups emerged whose actions became an armed rebellion against Indian law enforcement and Armed forces. These groups grew bigger and became the underground resistance, there was even the cases of violent threats against Hindus where many were forced to leave their homes and migrate in around 1990. Now India has for a long time accused Pakistan of organizing these groups and funding these groups even sending fighters over the border to Indian Kashmir and Pakistan denies these allegations. As of right now tensions have skyrocketed after India revoked Kashmir’s special status, enforcing a curfew, deploying 38 thousand more men in Kashmir and February 2019 Skirmishes when Pakistan and Indian air force clashed head-on ending in Pakistan’s favor. By the very nature of these actions, India had broken its agreement with the maharaja, lost its legal right to the land and had been humiliated in the international world stage. The curfew and troop deployment has resulted in thousands coming out in protest and Indian authorities cracking down on them with force.
Another reason of tensions between Pakistan and India are occurrences of ceasefire violations on Line of Control. The military authorities of Pakistan have continued to lodge complaints with the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan about ceasefire violations. Pakistan in recent times has also raised the issue of Kashmir in united nations security council whereas military authorities of India have lodged no complaints of cross-border firing since January 1972 and have restricted the activities of the UN observers on the Indian side of the Line of Control.
Kashmir dispute still remains as one of the longest unresolved issues of Unite nations and It has now become very important for the international community to take matters seriously and demand referendum for the sake of peace, human rights and democratic ideals. If not, then there is little realistic option left but war for this dispute to be settled once and for all.