Kashmir is the northwestern region of South Asia. It refers to a geographical area that includes the Indian-administered regions of Kashmir Valley, Jammu, and Ladakh; the Pakistani administered Northern Areas and “Azad” Kashmir; and the Chinese-administered region of Aksai Chin and Trans Karakoram Tract.
The political and religious dominance of different rulers has punctuated the history of the area. It was an important center of Hinduism and Buddhism until 1346, the year of the advent of Muslim rule. In 1820, the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh annexed Kashmir and held it until 1846, at which time the Dogras, starting with Gulab Singh, became its rulers upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar. The Dogra rule (under the paramountcy, or tutelage, of the British Crown) lasted until 1947, when the former princely state became a disputed territory.
The Kashmir dispute has multiple dimensions. First, it is a conflict between India and Pakistan over territorial sovereignty. Since the 1947 partition, which resulted in the independence of India and Pakistan, the central pillar of Indian argumentation on Kashmir rests on the Instrument of Accession to India, signed by Hari Singh, the maharajah and last Dogra ruler, on October 26, 1947. Pakistan refutes this argument on the grounds that the maharajah had no political legitimacy to sign the document since his rule was contested. Pakistan highlights that the Instrument of Accession was signed in the midst of an agitated political atmosphere, since the maharaja had taken refuge in the Hindu-dominated Jammu province following a widespread Muslim riot, which led to the invasion of Kashmir by members of Pakistani tribes.
The legal contention gained a new dimension when India took the dispute to the United Nations (UN). In the Security Council resolutions of April 21, 1948; June 3, 1948; and March 14, 1950, the UN called on the Pakistani government to initiate the withdrawal of the tribe members and Pakistani nationals from Kashmir. Simultaneously, the UN asked the Indian government to start withdrawing Indian forces while maintaining the minimum force level necessary to maintain law and order. It also mandated that a free and fair plebiscite be held to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris about accession to either India or Pakistan.
India and Pakistan engaged in active combat over Kashmir in 1947, 1965, and 1999. Additionally, India waged an armed dispute with China in 1962, which led to the loss of the strategic region of Aksai Chin in Kashmir to China. However, since the 1947 war, which led to the division of Kashmir into two areas controlled by India and Pakistan respectively, separated by a line of control (LoC), none of the military disputes have been able to significantly influence the dynamics of the conflict, either from a territorial or political perspective. While the general animosity between India and Pakistan may have seemingly abated in the early years of the twenty-first century, the situation remains problematic.
The Kashmir dispute is also a conflict between India and the Kashmiris living in India-administrated Kashmir. Their central claim is the fulfillment of their right to self-determination, meaning the right to determine their political future based on their common identity (Kashmiriyat). Kashmiri native insurgency against Indian rule emerged in the late 1980s and aimed at contesting the increasing erosion of the special status Indian-administrated Kashmir held since 1947.As of 2009, however, the voices of the Kashmiri people are being represented more emphatically through political separatism rather than through armed militancy.
Another angle to the dispute is the conflict between India and foreign religious militants who have been operating in Kashmir since 1996 to wage a jihad for the establishment of a rigid Islamic theocracy. These foreign militants, driven to Kashmir by the end of the Soviet-Afghan War (1979–1989) and by the adoption of a radical interpretation of Islam, have been incorporated into organized militant groups, allegedly with the support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The support Kashmiris give to foreign militants is somewhat ambiguous. While some may be sympathetic to the militants’ violent resistance to Indian rule, others are wary of the implications of tagging Kashmir as a religious struggle.
Kashmir is an intricate and multidimensional conflict, the resolution of which seems to be tangled by divergent political and religious arguments. Whereas India seems to assent on the maintenance of the status quo and the transformation of the LoC into an international border, Pakistan, in opposition, vindicates the self-determination agenda—aspiring, nonetheless, for the complete accession of Kashmir into its territory. On the other hand, Muslim Kashmiris living in the Kashmir Valley (and probably also in Pakistan-administrated Kashmir) are inclined to choose complete independence. In order to address these competing views, some proposals suggest, for instance, further autonomization of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian federation; shared sovereignty, partial or total condominium, between India and Pakistan; the Chenab formula, which divides Kashmir along the line of the Chenab River); the creation of a free economic trade area; the transformation of Kashmir into a buffer state; a region-by-region plebiscite; the establishment of a UN trusteeship; the ethnic-religious division of Kashmir in administrative units; or the creation of a confederation.
- Behera, Navnita Chadha. Demystifying Kashmir. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2007.
- Jamal, Arif. Shadow War:The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir. New York: Melville House, 2009.
- Schofield,Victoria. Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unfinished War. New York: I. B.Tauris, 2003.
- Tavares, Rodrigo. “Resolving the Kashmir Conflict: India, Pakistan, Kashmiris and Religious Militants.” Asian Journal of Political Science 16, no. 3 (2008): 276–302.