Garden in Kashmir

Kashmir: A Culturally Disputed Territory between India and Pakistan

For almost 150 years, the British rule over the Indian subcontinent. The total majority of Hindu and Muslims in South Asia is about 95%. Mr. Jinnah, the leader of Muslim League put forward Two Nation Theory in the early 20th century. The theory states that Muslims and others share little in common. British India should be divided into two separate countries, one for the Muslims and the other for the Hindu majority.

Partition of Subcontinent

The campaign started in the early 1940s. By the end of World War II, the partition of the subcontinent was assured. The Partition of India in 1947 created two large countries.  Pakistan as two wings in the East and West separated by India in the middle. After Independence, both countries established diplomatic relations. Subsequent years were marked by bitter periodic conflict. The Nation went to war four times. The war in 1971 ended in defeat and another partition of Pakistan. The eastern wing split off as a new country named Bangladesh, while the western wing continued as Pakistan.

Issue of Kashmir

The most important issue which has spoiled the relations between the two countries has indeed been Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir region has significant importance as it is a melting pot and a international relation’s hotspot. Here, many races and cultures cross paths. Kashmir is the subject of dispute between India, Pakistan, and China since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

Kashmir’s Population

The region holds majority of Muslims. As per census 2011, Muslims constitutes 68.31% of Jammu and Kashmir population. In all, believers of Islam form majority religion in 17 out of 22 districts of Jammu and Kashmir state. The data for 2020 & 2021 is under process. Muslim Population in Jammu and Kashmir is 85.67 Lakhs (68.31 percent) of total 1.25 Crore.

an image showing geography of Kashmirimage by EFSAS

Why India and Pakistan take issue with Kashmir?

The Himalayan region of Kashmir lies at the northernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. In 1947, after the independence of India and Pakistan, Kashmir originally opted to remain independent from both nations. Kashmir had threats from Pakistani militants so, Kashmir’s Hindu ruler soon went along with the territory to India. The first of many armed conflicts between India and Pakistan over the region followed, and the sovereignty of Kashmir has remained disputed ever since.

Division of Kashmir

Kashmir is at present divided between three countries: India, Pakistan and China. India has administration over the largest portion known as Jammu and Kashmir state while Pakistan has jurisdiction over two areas called Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. China also controls a territory called Aksai Chin to the east, although India has long claimed this area as well.

Claimant

The dispute over Kashmir has deep roots in the past and cannot be risk free in the future. Three nuclear powers, India, Pakistan and China, claim to parts of this region. This raises the wraith of a truly sudden great conflict. Pakistan claims most of the region based on its Muslim-majority population, whereas China claims the largely uninhabited regions of Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley.

Relationship between Pakistan and India

According to a 2017 BBC World Service poll, only 5% of Indians view Pakistan’s influence positively, with 85% expressing a negative view, while 11% of Pakistanis view India’s influence positively, with 62% expressing a negative view. Relations between Pakistan and India have also resumed through platforms such as media and communications. Aman ki Asha is a joint venture and campaign between The Times of India and the Jang Group calling for mutual peace and development of diplomatic, social and cultural relations.

Historical Overview of Kashmir

a paper cutting of an Indian news paperimage by The Daily Star

Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir in 1339. The dynasty is named after its founder, Shah Mir. During the rule of the dynasty from 1339 to 1561, Islam was firmly established in Kashmir. For the next five centuries, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir, including the Mughal Empire, who ruled from 1586 until 1751, and the Afghan Durrani Empire, which ruled from 1747 until 1819.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Amritsar that followed in March 1846, the British government sold Kashmir for a sum of 7.5 million Nanakshahee rupees to Gulab Singh, who became the new ruler of Kashmir.

From 1846 till the 1947

Kashmir was ruled by maharajas of Gulab Singh’s Dogra dynasty, as a baronial state under British legal authority.
1947.Ranbir Singh’s grandson Hari Singh conquer the rule of Kashmir in 1925. He was the crown prince till 1947 at the culmination of British rule in the subcontinent and in the wake of break up of British Indian Empire into the newly independent states of Pakistan and India.

Two New States, India and Pakistan

This antagonism appear after the partition of formerly Hindustan in 1947 as both India and Pakistan alleged the aggregate of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Contention over the land of Jammu and Kashmir that surge into three wars between India and Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948, sometimes known as the First Kashmir War.

Kashmir after 1947

After the dissolution of the British Raj in 1947, two new sovereign nations were formed—the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. Soon after gaining their independence, India and Pakistan established diplomatic relations, but the violent partition and corresponding territorial claims quickly obscure their relationship.
On 1 January 1948, India took the matter of Jammu and Kashmir into the United Nations Security Council under Article 35 of the UN Charter, which allows the member nations to escort the attention of the UN matters which threaten international peace. Hence the resolution calls on Pakistan to pull back its armed forces and India to cut its military occupancy.

Aksai Chin

Aksai Chin
Credit: Credit: PTI Photo

China gradually took over eastern Kashmir (Aksai Chin) in 1950’s. Pro-Indian authorities dismiss and arrest Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah, leader of the governing National Conference and after that in 1957, The constitution of Indian-administrated Jammu and Kashmir spell out it as part of India.

In early 1960’s, China got the better of India in a short war for control of Aksai Chin. Pakistan hand over the Trans-Karakoram Tract of Kashmir to China. However, a brief war between Indian and Pakistan over Kashmir concluded in a ceasefire and both countries returned to the previous positions.

Shimla Agreement

Shimla Agreement. On July 2, 1972, former prime minister Indira Gandhi signed the Shimla Agreement with the then Pakistan prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Credit: AP IMAGES

One more war happened in 1971-1972. It was the 13 days military conflict and one of the shortest wars in history. It ended with a decisive win for India and led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1972.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan on 2nd July 1972 signed the Simla Agreement. Subsequently, this agreement formed the basis of Pakistani-Indian relations and turned the Kashmir ceasefire line into the Line of Control. Simla agreement assured both sides to settle their differences through negotiations and called for a final settlement on the dispute of Kashmir.

Insurrection continues in 1990’s, with Kashmiri militants training in Pakistan and India garrison hundreds of thousands of troops in Jammu and Kashmir. Kargil war came about between 3 May – 26 July 1999 but resulted in no territorial changes.

Kashmir during the previous decade 2011-2021

Since the election of new governments in both India and Pakistan in the early 2010s, some attempts have been made to improve relations. Indian forces killed three Pakistani soldiers in firing across the Line of Control in September 2011. India accused Pakistan of opening fire first.

After so many flake out, in September 2013, Prime ministers of India and Pakistan meet and agree to take the edge off the number of violent episodes at their disputed border in Kashmir.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, he invited his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration ceremony, a move that came in for much appreciation. However, within short span of time, relations turned sour once more. Pakistani high commissioner in India met with Kashmiri dissident leaders and India canceled talks with Pakistan’s foreign minister in august 2014.

In November 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to the continuation of bilateral talks. Indian prime minister Modi made a brief, instinctive visit to Pakistan in December 2015 so became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan since 2004.

Curfew-2016

It is not wrong if one can say the 2016 was the worst year for the Indo-Pak relationship, as by the middle of 2016, tensions started take flight with an anxiety of war between the two nuclear powers. Indian authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in most parts of Indian occupied Kashmir after the killing of popular militant by security forces of Burhan Wani, a popular militant and top commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, shred violent protests. Pakistan stayed the course to tell the world about the unproven human rights violations carry out by India in Kashmir.

Pakistan invited Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to visit Islamabad to discuss about Kashmir but Jaishankar turned down the invitation and said Pakistan is “prime perpetrator of terrorism in the region.” After that Nawaz Sharif immediately appointed 22 members of Parliament to take up the issue of Kashmir in international forums.

After a brief melt following the election of new governments in both nations, bilateral discussions again stand in the way of after the 2016 Pathankot attack. In September 2016, 19 Indian Army soldiers in a terrorist attack on an Indian military base in Indian adapt Kashmir. India claimed that the attack had been arranged by a Pakistan-supported jihadist group. Pakistan denied and claimed that the attack had been a local reaction to disturbance in the region due to extravagant force by Indian security personnel.

The attack set fire to a military face off across the Line of Control (LoC), with an upturn in ceasefire violations and further militant attacks on Indian security forces.

Since 2016, the ongoing upturn, continued terrorist attacks, and an increase in nationalist diction on both sides has resulted in the collapse of bilateral relations, with little expectation that they will recover.

Pulwama attack

Pulwama attack
Credit: https://www.business-standard.com/

Tensions run through in February 2019, when a deadly terrorist attack killed 38 police officers in Indian-controlled Kashmir and the two nuclear-armed powers exchanged airstrikes for the first time since 1971.

Pulwama attack, happened on 14 February, 40 members of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in a suicide bombing there in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir. This was the deadliest strike on Indian forces in the troubled region in decades.

On 15 February, JeM, a Pakistan based terrorist organization, profess the attack and released a video identifying the suicide bomber.
Two days later, India hikes tariffs on all imports from Pakistan to 200% with immediate effect.

On 18 February, JeM terrorists kill an Indian Army major and at least three other soldiers in Jammu & Kashmir. Apparently, two terrorists, including a commander of the JeM, thought to have been a mastermind behind the attack on 14 February’s Pulwama attack, were killed in an exchange of gunfire with the Indian Army.

The very next day on 19 February Imran Khan, The Prime Minister of Pakistan showed his willingness to negotiate and cooperate with India regarding the Pulwama attack on 14 February.

On the other side Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledge a strong response, by saying that “…We will give a befitting reply, our neighbor will not be allowed to destabilize us”.

25 February at the LoC in Rajouri district Jammu & Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani armies exchange fire.

2019 Balakot Airstrike

Balakot Airstrike
Credit: https://react.etvbharat.com/

On 26 February, the Indian government carries out ‘non-military pre-emptive’ strikes targeting Pakistan-based terrorist group JeM’s ‘biggest training camp’ near Balakot in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. After initially denying that any such incident had occurred, Pakistan subsequently confess that Indian fighter aircraft had to be sure penetrated deep into Pakistani territory undetected and had dropped bombs near Balakot.

The spokesperson for the Pakistan armed forces, Major General Asif Ghafoor, however, said that the strikes hit an empty area.

On 27 February, The Indian Air Force shoots down a Pakistani F-16 fighter. And Pakistan bring down two Indian fighter jets and captured one Indian pilot.

Soon, on 28 February, Imran Khan said that the captured Indian Air Force pilot would be released as a “peace gesture”. Reports suggest that the Pakistani Prime Minister may have been under international pressure, especially from the US.

India’s interior minister, Amit Shah, cited security concerns when he announced the revocation of article 370. The central government is removing Kashmir’s special status. He said, “keeping in view the prevailing internal security fueled by cross-border terrorism,” Shah said in a statement.

However, The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi,  mentioned that change to Kashmir’s status would bring economic development and infrastructure improvements to the region.

Lockdown in Kashmir

On 5 August 2019 and the Government of India revoked the special status, or limited liberty, granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. And the lockdown starts.

The Indian government moved to revoke special status for Indian-controlled Kashmir. Since then, Kashmir residents have remained largely cut off from the rest of the world as an unmatched crackdown. India’s decision has provoked anger in Pakistan and global worries over a fresh armed conflict. Pakistan responded by lowering diplomatic relations with its neighbor and calling on international allies to take its side.

According to an article in dw, Clashes in the first half of the year have left 229 dead, including 32 civilians, reports AFP news agency. The 283 people killed in all of 2019 was the highest toll for a decade. Still, a senior official in India’s Border Security Force, who wished to remain anonymous, told DW that the security situation in the region is “better than ever,” citing a drop in the local youth joining pro-separatist extremist groups.

Human rights organizations have called Kashmir one of the world’s most militarized zones. Amnesty International has condemned the Indian government’s practice of using a sweeping public safety law to detain people there without trial.

Coronavirus lockdown in Kashmir

Even so, despite months of lockdown fatigue,  Kashmiris are largely accepting the new lockdown in the hopes it will prevent a devastating spread of the disease Mosques, normally full five times a day for prayers, are empty, and markets closed.

As of May 4, the region has just 701 confirmed cases and eight deaths, out of a population of 12.5 million.

On 25 February 2021, India and Pakistan issued a joint statement indicating that both sides agreed to stop firing at each other at the disputed Line of Control border in Kashmir.

Conclusion

The people of Kashmir are victims to the dispute between India and Pakistan and have unfortunately become victims to a divide that has been rooted in Indo-Pakistan disputes. There needs to be better methods of communication to resolve these types of disputes and hopefully in the near future as COVID-19 cases are rising and making things worse.

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