Kashmir is the fulcrum on which intangible matters of national formation have developed into tangible matters of international conflict.
In the months of Partition in 1947, generally Hindu majority states went to India, and Muslim-majority states went to Pakistan. However, there were a few exceptions where local rulers did not reflect the religious identity of their states.
In the case of Junagadh, a coastal enclave, its Muslim ruler, advised by his adviser Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the father of Pakistan’s later Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto, opted for Pakistan, but was swept away by a blockade, military intervention and successful plebiscite by India.
In the case of Hyderabad, totally surrounded by Indian territory, its Muslim ruler opted for independence before Indian troops intervened in September 1947.
In the case of Kashmir the lines went the other way, with a Hindu ruler sitting atop a Muslim majority population. Further ambiguity was caused by strong independence sentiments being muffled, and with the majority Muslim opinion being reflected not by Jinnah’s Muslim League but by Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference that had co-operative links with the Congress Party.
Suffice to say that amidst temporization by the Kashmir ruler, growing instability and appearance of irregular forces from the Pakistan side, followed by the decision of the ruler to call for Indian assistance, which in turn brought formal Pakistan intervention as well.
The results were two-fold. One was the de facto partition of Kashmir between India-held central valley (Muslim-dominated) as well as Jammu (Hindu) and Ladakh (Buddhist), whilst Pakistan held onto the western fringes of Kashmir (renamed Azad Kashmir, ‘Free Kashmir’) and the northerly mountainous area of Baltistan.
In the wake of military stalemate and recourse to the UN, vague promises were given on a plebiscite at some point, but this was shelved subsequently, as Sheikh Abdullah lent support to Kashmir’s accession to India, and Pakistan strengthened its grip on Azad Kashmir/Baltistan.
Since then, conflict, ‘unending war’, has raged, with indeterminate outcomes merely entrenching divided outlooks between the two neighbours.
War in 1947–49 focused on Kashmir, whilst the wider conflicts in 1965 and 1971 brought in collateral fire in Kashmir. Within Kashmir the Kargil mini-war of 1999 was of course Kashmir-based, with the Siachin glacier proving another spot within Kashmir over which the two countries clashed.
The Kargil dispute was the last time that the states employed their military forces directly against each other, but cross-fire along the Line of Control continues down to the present.
Post-Kargil, Kashmir has not disappeared as an issue. Instead of state-to-state conflict, Kashmir has developed its sub-state and trans-state conflict dynamics as the growth of local operatives in Kashmir was given support by Pakistan. This is labelled by India as Pakistan ‘sponsoring’ terrorism.
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