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Alternative meanings: Jammu and Kashmir, Azad Kashmir, Aksai Chin

Kashmir is a region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. The term Kashmir historically described the valley just to the south of the easternmost end of the Himalayan range. Politically, however, the term 'Kashmir' describes a much larger area which includes the regions of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The region is currently divided amongst three countries: Pakistan controls the northwest portion (Northern Areas, Pakistan and Azad Kashmir), India controls the central and southern portion (Jammu and Kashmir), and the People's Republic of China controls the northeastern portion (Aksai Chin). Though these regions are in practice administered by their respective claimants, India has never formally recognized the accession of the areas claimed by Pakistan and China. Pakistan views the entire Kashmir region as disputed territory, and does not consider India's claim to it to be valid.

Kashmir is a beautiful valley of about 7,200 square kilometers (2,800 square miles) at an elevation of 1,675 meters (5,500 feet). It has a very ancient history and it was for a long time one of the centers of Sanskrit culture. Kashmiri literature, sculpture, music, dance, painting, and architecture have had a profound influence in Asia.

Table of contents
1 The events of partition
2 Recent developments
3 Claims to Kashmir
4 See also
5 External links

The events of partition

In 1947, India gained independence from British rule. It was decided that two countries would be formed, Pakistan and India, where Pakistan would have a majority Muslim population, and India a majority Hindu population. It had been agreed that autonomous regions like Kashmir, could decide to either join India or Pakistan.

Kashmir, which had a predominantly Muslim population, was one of these autonomous states, ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh, who was a Hindu. After partition, he delayed his decision whether to join India or Pakistan, hoping to somehow keep his kingdom independent. Not long after partition, Pakistan invaded Kashmir using tribal Islamic guerillas and Pakistani army regulars disguised as tribals. The reasoning behind this invasion seems to be due to Pakistan's fears of Singh joining India or a Pakistani desire to take Kashmir before India was able to reinforce it. Whatever the case, the invading irregular Pakistani forces made great gains into Kashmir, but some of them stopped before reaching Srinagar. According to some reports, there they engaged in massive rape and pillage of native Kashmiris, particularly the non-Muslims. However, what really occured is up for debate and this ambiguity is symbolic of the larger issues behind Kashmir.

At this stage, the Maharaja realizing his dream of independent Kashmir was crushed, asked for the aid of the Indian army. India promised aid if the Maharaja were to sign the instrument of accession to India, which he did. This gave Kashmir "officially" over to India.

The resulting war lasted until 1948, when India moved the issue to United Nations to ask Pakistan to vacate the occupied Kashmir. Thus a cease-fire was negotiated by the UN, dividing Kashmir between Indian-held and Pakistani-held territory. The United Nations pressed for a plebiscite among the entire Kashmiri population, which was denied by India for various reasons, including Pakistan's refusal to completely vacate Kashmir.

In 1962 the People's Republic of China attacked India in the Sino-Indian War, and the resulting land it took and continues to occupy is called Aksai Chin. In addition the land taken by the PLA, some of the land composing this area was ceded to China by Pakistan in 1963 as part of a pact. [1]

In 1965 and 1971, heavy fighting again broke out between India-Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 resulted in a defeat of Pakistan in East Pakistan (Bangladesh, and the capturing of many soldiers by India in that region. However, in Kashmir and West Pakistan, the nations fought to another draw. This lead to the Simla Accord in 1972 between India and Pakistan. In this accord, both countries agreed to settle all issues by peaceful means and mutual discussions, and India returned captured Pakistani territory in Kashmir and 90,000 Pakistani prisoners as a gesture of good will.

Recent developments

India continues to assert its sovereignty over the entire region of Kashmir and refuses to acknowledge the "disputed nature" of the issue, and Pakistan is calling for "Kashmiri self-determination." These have been the respective stands of the countries for long, and have seen no significant change over the years. As a result, all efforts to solve the conflict have been futile so far.

In mid-1999, Islamic guerillas and according to some reports, Pakistani troops in plain clothes infiltrated and took command of Himalayan mountain tops and ridges near the town of Kargil in Kashmir. Their objective was to sever the main Srinagar-Leh road which runs north-south in Indian Kashmir. Had they succeeded, they would have effectively cut Kashmir in two. Pakistani forces made great gains initially. However, a massive Indian response combined with orders to retreat due to American pressure lead Pakistan to lose as many men as India had. The conflict ended when US President Bill Clinton asked Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to withdraw his forces. A few months after the end of the war, Sharif was overthrown by the Pakistani Army in a coup led by General Pervez Musharraf (now President of Pakistan). Many believe that Musharraf was the brains behind the entire Kargil Conflict, and that Nawaz Sharif was forced to go along due to the power of the Pakistani Army.

In early 2002, India and Pakistan escalated their threats towards one another, driven by their territorial dispute and recent terrorist attacks in India, which has led to fears of nuclear war in the subcontinent.

After intensive diplomatic efforts by other countries, India and Pakistan toned down their aggressive rhetoric towards one another on June 10, 2002, and are hoped to be preparing to make conciliatory moves towards one another.

Effective November 26, 2003, India and Pakistan have agreed to maintain a ceasefire along the undisputed International Border, the disputed Line Of Control, and along the Siachen glacier. This is the first such "total ceasefire" declared by both the nations in nearly 15 years.

Claims to Kashmir

The Pakistani claim to Kashmir is based on the fact that the majority of Kashmir's population is Muslim. Since Pakistan was created as a nation for the Muslims of India, the leadership of that nation has always felt that Kashmir rightfully belongs to Pakistan. The Pakistani claim is also based on a belief that most Kashmiris would vote to join Pakistan, although this has never been proven nor disproven.

The Indian claim centers on the agreement of the Maharaja to sign over Kashmir to India through the Instrument of Accession. Likewise, India feels that the majority of the Kashmiri people would vote to remain with India, and it now considers Kashmir an integral part of India. Therefore, it sees the Pakistani held territories as land illegally taken by Pakistan. The fact that Nehru's family came from Kashmir made the issue important to him on a personal level, and he also hoped that Kashmir would serve as an example of fully secular India (being the only Muslim majority state in the nation).

See also

External links