Kashmir has been a flashpoint in Indo-Pakistan relations since the two countries were formed in 1947 and was recently in the news, when a terrorist from Pakistan killed 40 members of the Indian Central Police Force.
The two countries are both nuclear powers and apparently had to be pulled back from the brink by the Americans for a second time, the first being in 1999.
There is a great deal of misinformation around the Kashmir issue and that’s why this piece is written, more for my own remembrance than anything else. If you keep hearing lies and have no chance to hear the truth, one tends to believe the lie.
Pakistan wanted Jammu and Kashmir, a region which was part of the former princely state of the same name, to be a part of itself at the time of partition as it was a Muslim-majority region. But the main political party, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, was allied to the main Indian party, the Indian National Congress.
The ruler of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh, could not decide and dragged his feet on the decision. In October 1947, a few months after both Pakistan and India had declared independence, Pakistani tribesmen attacked J&K, with backing from their country. Hari Singh asked for help from India but was told it would be conditional on the state joining India.
The Indian forces succeeded in pushing Pakistan out of some part of J&K; the portion which is still occupied by Pakistan to his day is called Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by India and Azad Kashmir by the Pakistanis. The Indian portion is called the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir by India and Indian-administered Kashmir by Pakistan.
Soon after J&K acceded to India, the matter was taken to the United Nations by the Indian leader of the time, Jawaharlal Nehru. The UN decision was that a plebiscite would be held after the status quo ante had been restored. This meant that Pakistan had to withdraw from the portion of Kashmir it held, and India had to do likewise, leaving only enough forces to maintain law and order.
Despite numerous efforts by the UN, no solution has been reached to date. Proposals for Pakistan to withdraw have been countered by assertions that there was no guarantee that India would follow suit. Pakistan has raised the issue of India not holding a plebiscite, despite the fact that this was to be held only after both sides had withdrawn.
Two wars were fought over Kashmir in 1965 and 1971, the latter leading to the creation of Bangladesh out of the former East Pakistan. A line of control was decided on after the 1971 war and the two countries committed to a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
India had better standing in the state for a long time, until it rigged the elections in 1986. The leader of the J&K National Conference, Sheikh Abdullah, was a strong supporter of a secular state, and as long as he was there, India was in the ascendant.
But after his death, his son Farooq, more of a playboy than a politician, began to lose support. Fearing a loss in the 1986 elections, India rigged the process. This annoyed the people of the state and since then opposition to India has grown. As protests became more organised and resulted in militancy — which Pakistan fomented — India sent in more and more troops to keep the peace.
The protests then ballooned into running battles, with Pakistan supplying arms to those who opposed India. From that point onwards, things have only gotten worse and something like a civil war has raged there. Periodically, the temperature rises more than normal as it did recently. Then everything goes back to being a festering sore.
Nobody is willing to lance that boil and let it heal.