The Kashmir dispute: Its territorial location and underlying causes

February 15, 2018 Asia , India , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , Pakistan

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Saliha Khalid



Territorial location of Kashmir


Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Historically the term Kashmir was used to refer to the valley lying between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range.

Before 1947 it had an area of 84,471 sq miles. It borders in north and east for about 600 miles with Sin Kiang and Tibet provinces of China and in South West for about 750 miles with Pakistan. A thirty miles stretch of Wakhan, an Afghan territory separates it from Tajikistan, whereas towards South, it forms a border with India.

Today Kashmir refers to a larger area that includes Jammu and Kashmir administered by India (comprising Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh), the Pakistani administered regions Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir, and the Chinese administered region of Aksai Chin.

Kashmir was originally an important center of Hinduism, and later of Buddhism. Since 1947, when Pakistan separated from India, the region has had a Muslim majority.

In the seventeenth century the Mughal emperor Jahangir set his eyes on the valley of Kashmir, and said that if paradise could be experienced anywhere on the earth, it was there, living in a house boat on the mesmerizing Dal Lake. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Muslim-dominated Kashmir, Hindu-dominated Jammu and Buddhist-dominated Ladakh poses a grave danger to the security of the region where mixed populations live in regions such as Doda and Kargil.



Significance of Kashmir to both parties


The glaciers and fresh water Kashmir provides to the region and to India. The glacial waters that flow through Kashmir provide water and electricity to a billion people in India. Pakistan also relies heavily on glacial waters flowing from the region to prop up its agricultural sector.

Kashmir’s strategic importance lies in the fact that its borders meet with China and Afghanistan and also is close to Russia. Almost all the rivers which flow through Pakistan, originate from Kashmir, that’s why both the countries ignore stepping back claiming of this territory.

With a growing population and increased need for electricity, India has looked to the region to develop more hydro facilities. Pakistan fears that India may divert water necessary for irrigation, and use water as a weapon against Pakistan.

Kashmir is thus a major national security issue for both nations, the control of which could pose an existential threat to the other.

In 1960, India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty, brokered by the World Bank. The agreement gave India control over the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej rivers, and Pakistan control over the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum. Because all the rivers flowed through India, India was given special provisions for hydroelectric development.

Sounding further alarm bells, research indicates that global warming is causing record melting of Kashmir’s glaciers, which provide fresh water to its rivers. Himalayan glaciers have lost an estimated 174 gig tons of water; the rapid melt has been responsible for severe flooding in both Pakistan and India. With rapidly receding glacial water, India and Pakistan will face prolonged electricity shortages, stunting economic growth, and dry summer river beds will impact the agriculture sector.

Kashmir is geostrategically located and serves as main source of water and power generation for both Pakistan and India. The control of the region creates a zero sum game in which the control of the rivers and glacial water could pose an existential threat to the other.

Indus is the main river system of Pakistan. Agriculture of this nation depends on the water from Indus River. Even though there is a water sharing treaty between India and Pakistan, former being upper riparian state, has more control over sources of this river system. During the time of a crisis, India can block water to Pakistan and create drought there. It can also open excess water and create flood there. Pakistan is well aware of this and that is why they are trying to occupy the whole of Kashmir. Geographical proximity of Islamabad to Indian border is making Pakistan nervous. It would love to put some more territory between India and its capital. Also, annexing Kashmir gives Islamabad a more central position in the nation.

Pakistan has freed her from most of her natural resources. Some of it is taken to Pakistan and rest is transported to China. Even some of its area is given to China and is controlled by Chinese military. This leaves Pakistan with a shortfall of resources. Thus Pakistan will have to occupy the Indian Kashmir for accessing its land, water and other resources also. Kashmir will attain more geostrategic importance when CPEC is completed. Pakistan would love to keep India at a distance from an economic lifeline to their nation. Also when the infrastructure of the region improves it will make it easy for Indian armed forces to reach heart of Pakistan. Pakistan would not want India to have such access nearer to its border. So to put more territory between CPEC and India Pakistan will try to occupy Kashmir.



Main Causes of Kashmir issues


As the British Raj in India ended, Maharaja Hari Singh of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir refused to join his kingdom to either India or Pakistan. The maharaja himself was Hindu, as were 20% of his subjects, but the overwhelming majority of Kashmiris were Muslim (77%). There were also small minorities of Sikhs and Tibetan Buddhists.

Hari Singh declared Jammu and Kashmir’s independence as a separate nation in 1947, but Pakistan immediately launched a guerrilla war to free the majority-Muslim region from Hindu rule. The maharaja then appealed to India for aid, signing an agreement to accede to India in October of 1947, and Indian troops cleared the Pakistani guerrillas from much of the area.

The newly-formed United Nations intervened in the conflict in 1948, organizing a cease-fire and calling for a referendum of Kashmir’s people in order to determine whether the majority wished to join with Pakistan or India.

Firstly, India’s forcibly occupation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 is the main cause of prolonged conflict between the rivals. Secondly, India’s claim to have signed a document, the instrument of Accession, on 26 October1947 with Maharaja of Kashmir has boosted up the dispute. Kashmiris, Pakistanis and UN do not consider Indian claims legally valid.

All the principles on the basis of which the Indian subcontinent was partitioned by British in 1947, justify Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan and India is not accepting this reality.



1949 Karachi agreement


The ceasefire line agreed at Karachi accepts the difficulty of demarcation beyond the point NJ9842. After this point the agreement suggests line will pass northwards.



1972 Agreement (Shimla agreement)


It did not make any change and the confusion remained same, whether the line is supposed to move north east (Pakistan) or North West (India) of point NJ9842.

The most genuine reasons why PoK is important to India are:


Strategically important for military domination in case of war.(PoK is at very height which makes it strategically important).


Way to Central India: Afghanistan is only connected through that area.


Water Resources (POK is rich in water resources. The Indus and its tributaries render bright opportunities for hydropower generation).


India –China: It provides a strategic wedge to prevent further Pakistan-China geographical link-up.





Since the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947, the Kashmir dispute has been an intractable one between them. They fought three wars over it in1948, 1965, and 1999, but have not been able to resolve it. The partition left the fate of over 550 princely states undecided. They were required to accede to either of the two states on the basis of the geographical location and wishes of their people.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir should have acceded to Pakistan because of its Muslim majority population and geographical location, but this was not happened when Maharaja Hari Singh seek military assistance from India to resist the Pakistani tribal’s attacks and ultimately signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ with India. Eventually Indian forces intervened and captured the state of Jammu and Kashmir. From that day Kashmir dispute has been the core issue between both Pakistan and India, which also had kept the security of entire South Asia at stake because of their extensive nuclear capability.

So, the Kashmir issue has been a major bone of contention from the day of independence, resulted in three wars, numerous conflicts between India and Pakistan and severely rigid diplomacy. The United Nations Security Council had tried to resolve the dispute by declaring that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method by holding a free and fair plebiscite but India had rejected any mediation which opposed its claim regarding Kashmir.



Failed efforts of International and regional powers


The failure of diplomacy to resolve the Kashmir issue attracted international and regional attention to it. After the wars of 1948, 1962 and 1965, determined efforts were made to resolve this issue. In 1948, the United Nations became deeply involved but India didn’t show flexibility. After the India-China border War of 1962, there were intense but fruitless American and British efforts to bridge a gap between India and Pakistan. The end of 1965 war saw Soviet Union as a regional peacemaker. The Soviets did manage to promote a peace treaty at Tashkent, but this could not establish peace in the region and soon Indian involvement in East Pakistan led to her separation in 1970-71.

The most consistent feature of great power influence on the Kashmir problem has been its ineffectiveness. Besides Cold war rivalries, both United States and the Soviet Union have played significant, often parallel and cooperative roles in the subcontinent. Both Washington and Moscow made several inconclusive efforts to mediate the dispute or bring about its peaceful resolution, but were distrustful of anything more. It took the 1990 crisis with its nuclear dimension, to bring the United States back to the region.



Policies of US, USSR and China towards Kashmir


Soviet Union, United states and China have different policies towards the Kashmir dispute according to their own interests. In the beginning all of them showed neutrality but with the changing world’s politics and dimensions, they formulate their concerns regarding Kashmir.



China‘s Kashmir policy


China’s policies towards Kashmir have passed through different stages. In first phase, from 1949 to 1960s, China avoided siding with either India or Pakistan; instead it favored a resolution of the issue through peaceful settlements and also opposed the role of UN and United States to mediate Kashmir issue.

The second phase started from early 1960s and lasted till 1970. Sino-Indian border war of 1962 started hostility between India and China resulted close relations with Pakistan. China stood by Pakistan on Kashmir issue with firm support for the right of self determination. But in 1970s, China adopted neutral policy on Kashmir issue as its relations were normal with India; this was reflected during Kargil conflict and Indo-Pak military possible conflict in 2001-2.

The normal relations between India and Pakistan on Kashmir would bring benefits to the United States. Indo-Pak tensions are especially dangerous because they bring two nuclear states on the brink of war. They divert Pakistan from fighting terrorists and militants on their own soils. India and Pakistan need to engage in combined bilateral talks on all important issues. Continuing tensions over Kashmir will weaken any initiative to bring stability to South Asia as well as bring about the risk of a nuclear war. It will be quite right by assuming that Kashmir is the root cause of much of the militancy in South Asia.



Resolution of the issue is must


It is necessary for international community to realize that peace and stability in South Asia can only be guaranteed if all outstanding disputes between Pakistan and India, including the Kashmir dispute should be resolved because Pakistan has become a frontline state against the Global War of terrorism. The best solution of the Kashmir dispute could be the right of self determination which should be given to Kashmiris in order to give them the right to decide to whom they want to accede.


Kashmir as the Buffer zone and futuristic graveyard


India, like USA and Israel, uses alien territories like Kashmir to fight wars with neighboring Pakistan. The line of control or LOC now lying between India and Pakistan is in fact the LOC between two Kashmirs that are being occupied by both countries since when India and Pakistan themselves became independent in 1947. Invasion, division and occupation of Jammu Kashmir by India and Pakistan were clearly the conspiracy of Britain that thought of dividing and sharing of Kashmir between India and Pakistan in order to offset the territory losses by both when they became independent.

That UK never criticized Indian atrocities in Kashmir clearly shows its role in the ghastly division of Kashmir in the first place. USA never questioned the logic of sustaining an illegal Azad Kashmir under Pakistan without sovereignty. Illegality has become legal framework of UN and UNSC.

India and Pakistan, as per their seemingly mutually agreed plan, continue to use Kashmir, being occupied by both according to their individual military strength, as the buffer zone to wage continuous hostilities and fighting. The idea seems to be one of terrorizing the Kashmiris.

The people of Jammu Kashmir have very high stakes in peace as they have to pay heavy costs during any escalation of tension between India and Pakistan. Over 100,000 innocent Kashmiri Muslims have been killed by Indian military.

Kashmiris are the target of both natural forces causing floods as well as Indo-Pakistan forces. Ironically at a time when the two countries should have been work for the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people on both sides of the LoC, they are engaged in virulent and dangerous confrontation along the borders thereby multiplying the miseries of the people, whose lives have been shattered by the devastating deluge.

For the people of Jammu & Kashmir peace along the borders and within the mainland is of immense significance and I hope the political leadership of the two countries would also treat it with the same spirit and the ceasefire initiative of 2003 had proved to be an event of unrivalled importance for not only the two countries but also for the people in all the regions of Jammu Kashmir.

The LoC ceasefire, had not only given the much-needed relief to the people living along the borders, but it had, as well, provided the broad umbrella for the peace process to flourish. The ceasefire brought, after decades of tension and destruction, relief and normalcy into the lives of people residing in the State’s forward areas, at the same time it also made historic initiatives like opening up of LOC for bus service possible in J&K.

Peace between India and Pakistan, therefore, is crucial not only for stability, progress and economic prosperity of the South Asia region, but also for the peaceful development of India in all respects and sustainment of the budding democratic institutions and forces in Pakistan. New Delhi and Islamabad must without delay open the channels of communication realizing the dangerous consequences of any escalation of ongoing confrontation along the borders; there is no other alternative except resumption of peace process and revival of dialogue for establishing lasting peace in this region.

The present political leadership of Indo-Pak nations shall have to snub and keep at a distance those elements responsible for deliberate war hysteria.

Then, India and Pakistan should leave Jammu Kashmir because that nation does not belong either to India or Pakistan. Those Kashmiris who love Pakistan more than Kashmir could go and live in Pakistan and, similarly, those Kashmiris who love India more than Kashmir should leave JK and settle down in India proper. Leave Kashmir to true Kashmiris and let them make a home for themselves to live peacefully as a responsible islamist nation. Alternatively, let the present Indo-Pakistan status-quo of mutual occupations remains intact but end hostilities for lands and blood.



How nuclear war can be held b/w India-Pakistan on Kashmir issue


In the absence of full-scale wars, the eruption of low-to-medium-intensity crises generates instability. Low-to-medium-intensity violence may include all severe violent military conflict short of all-out war.  In South Asia, low intensity violence includes border clashes and skirmishes, and some low level fighting along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Both countries have paid special attention to the acquisition of nuclear weapons in the post-1971 period and by the late 1980s they had the capability to produce nuclear arms. In 1998, India and Pakistan finally tested their nuclear weapons. The Brasstacks crisis involved one of the largest military exercises, comparable to NATO or Warsaw Pact exercises.  Many in the West believe there was a growing risk of a miscalculated nuclear war between India and Pakistan during the Kashmir crisis. The Kargil crisis is notable because Pakistani forces acted as Kashmiri mujahidin and infiltrated into India, while the Indians, for the first time since the Bangladesh War of 1971, used air power in this medium-intensity crisis.  The most recent crisis in the rivalry erupted when the Indian Parliament was attacked by terrorists in December 2001. The two countries were almost on the brink of war.  The remarkably heavy deployment of forces by both sides along the LoC is just one indicator of how serious the crisis was. The rivalry encompasses two periods: pre-nuclear and nuclear.

The first period lasted for thirty-nine years, 1947–86, and seventeen years of the second period, 1987–2004, have already passed.  The two periods are different in terms of the number of crises, frequency of crises per fifteen years, intensity of crises, and strategies employed in crises.  In terms of numbers, India and Pakistan have had seven interstate crises in the first thirty-nine years when nuclear weapons were not introduced in the region.  After nuclear weapons became a factor in the India–Pakistan rivalry, in the seventeen years from 1987 to 2004 there have been four interstate crises. Thus, the frequency and number of crises increased in the nuclear period compared to the pre-nuclear era.

The strategies employed by India and Pakistan in the pre-nuclear period also changed in the nuclear period.  In the first era, both states used war as a crisis management mechanism. Thus, the use of regular forces was the norm. The nuclear period witnessed the usage of terrorism, proxy wars, and low-to-medium-intensity violence by Pakistan. The

Indians also changed their strategies from full-scale war to limited war:  Even though India was prepared to widen the Kargil conflict if it had been unable to evict Pakistani forces with limited means.  Unlimited war may erupt where one side wants to keep the conflict limited but the other side has the ability to escalate it. Nuclear weapons created a permissive condition in offering a variety of coercive strategies to the challenger and allowing the defender to overcome that by adopting tougher postures.

While the enduring rivalry between India and Pakistan compelled the rivals to acquire nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons possession has generated a prolongation of the rivalry. Although with the acquisition of these weapons the rivals intended to avoid wars between them, the absence of war has had a negative impact on the conflict.  With the understanding that a full-scale war is unlikely to occur, both India and Pakistan have become much less interested in making compromises with a view to terminating the rivalry. On the one hand, Pakistan is much more confident in the nuclear period about its position vis-a-vis India and sees no need to make unilateral concessions to obtain peace with its rival; on the other hand, India does not perceive the need for compromise under pressure.  In the absence of a traditional war possibility in the rivalry, there is no pressure on the parties to compromise. In September 1965, 11 the Pakistan army infiltrated the ceasefire line in Kashmir, which led the Indians to cross the international border. For India, the crisis began when Pakistanis infiltrated into Kashmir to create a massive uprising against Indian control of the state of Kashmir.

When India responded by sending several thousand troops across the 1949 ceasefire line, Pakistan perceived a crisis. The armies of India and Pakistan faced each other across the Punjab border, occupied each other’s territory, and violated the ceasefire agreement, triggering an all-out war. The war ended within four months in January 1966 with the Tashkent Declaration. This crisis highlights how little restraint both India and Pakistan have shown in crossing the ceasefire line drawn in 1949 and in using war as a central crisis management technique. Since none of the contending parties possessed nuclear weapons at that time, crisis was escalated to the war level without hesitation. Such crisis management strategies changed as soon as nuclear weapons capabilities were introduced into the rivalry. Secondly – and almost one might say because the relationship between India and Pakistan has been continually hostile, both countries have felt an essential component of their military defense has been the development of a nuclear weapons programme.

No precise data is available but India’s arsenal is believed to consist of between 80 and 100 nuclear weapons while Pakistan has an estimated 90 to 110.Although both countries have agreed not to attack each other’s nuclear facilities, regular exchanges of their lists take place on 1 January each year and a ‘hotline’ has been established providing early warning in the event that an accident might be interpreted as a nuclear attack, a state of controlled belligerency prevails. The government of India may have declared a no-first-use policy, but the government of Pakistan has not. Successive administrations – be they military or civilian – have refused to do so lest critical leverage is lost. Thus you have a 67-year-old dispute and two potentially antagonistic nuclearised neighbors. Any outbreak of hostilities could become deadly – not only for the 12 million inhabitants of the state of Jammu and Kashmir but for the lives of the 180 million and rising who live in Pakistan and the 1 billion who live in India. And if ever there were to be a nuclear exchange, I don’t need to add that we are not just talking about using a big bomb, we are talking about setting in train mutual annihilation.



Kashmir as golden scenario for the maintenance of peace in South Asia


It is my perception that no solution would be a lasting one unless the Kashmiri representatives are directly involved in the negotiations on the dispute. While Pakistan has been consistently insisting that the time has come to associate the Kashmiri representatives with the peace process, the Indians appear to be dragging their feet. India continues to blame Pakistan for causing trouble in the Indian held Kashmir (IHK). Apart from its strong domestic linkages, the global and regional dimensions of the dispute are equally important. At the regional level, the Kashmir dispute has been taking a very heavy toll of almost all peace efforts. Both India and Pakistan cannot move forward on the path of normalization unless the dispute is resolved.

The peace of South Asia continues to remain hostage to this dispute. A Russian finance minister once said at the Davos annual economic forum that there could not be peace in the subcontinent without solving the Kashmir dispute. While both India and Pakistan have repeatedly expressed their deep yearnings for peace and stability in South Asia, at the practical level they have often acted less pragmatically. Many factors account for the discouragingly slow progress of the peace process.

Since both Indians and Pakistanis, at least at the non-official levels, recognize that Kashmir is a dispute that has gone on far too long and has consistently taken an unacceptably high toll of desired Indo-Pak goodwill, it is indeed time to subject it to concentrated efforts aimed at securing some form of working solution. Compared to India, Pakistan has been suggesting practical and out of the box solutions but India has consistently avoided treading the solution-seeking path. For example, President Musharraf’s various proposals reflected a genuine desire to resolve the dispute.25 India, on the other hand, continued and still continues to stress that Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian Union. Whatever may be the interpretations of the disputants, the dispute deserves to be accorded concerted efforts aimed at its resolution and be placed at the top of the priority ladder.



Possible solutions for the Kashmir dispute


Nearly 40 proposals for a solution to the Kashmir crisis have surfaced in the history of post-partition India. These include; turning the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) into an international border, implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir to hold a plebiscite which will let Kashmiris choose between Indian and Pakistani rule, Musharraf Formula etc. This means converting the Line of Control between India and Pakistan into permanent International Border. India has been a strong supporter of this solution, though have not put forward any of this proposal formally in any forum. However, it is widely believed, that India will agree to the conversion of LoC into an international border. However, this solution is not acceptable to Pakistan. Pakistan feels, the main problem is the LoC and India cannot consider the problem as a solution. More importantly, the Kashmiris are against this proposal as well, as that would permanently divide the Kashmiris.

People of Kashmir, especially from the Valley demand complete independence as the only solution, from both India and Pakistan, based on the principles of self determination. They have been quoting the promises made by Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1940s and the UN Security Council Resolutions. However, India does not agree with this idea. Though Pakistan agrees in principle, in practical approach, Islamabad is also against the independence option. Nor do all the regions of J&K support such an option; for example, Jammu and Ladakh regions do not approve the independence option.





Saliha Khalid

Saliha Khalid is pursuing her Masters degree in Defense and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi

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