The conflict in Kashmir

Brief History: When the British were leaving the Indian subcontinent there were 570 'princely states' in the subcontinent ruled by hereditary rulers. The British gave the rulers of these states the option of acceding to India, to Pakistan, or of remaining independent. The majority of these states acceded to India, a few to Pakistan. Indian independence arrived August 15th, 1947. Problems arose in a few states that had princes who were of a different religion than the majority of their subjects.

Pakistan's version of events: The ruler of Kashmir, as a Muslim, wished to accede to Pakistan. He was placed under tremendous pressure by the Indian government to accede to India. The Muslim population, seeing this and the covert arrival of Indian troops, rose up and rebelled against Hari Singh. The government of India, alleging that the ruler had acceded to India on the basis of a fraudulent instrument of accession, invaded and occupied a large part of Kashmir, which is now divided into Azad (Liberated) Kashmir and 'Indian-held Kashmir'. India has reneged on its promise to hold a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris... India needs to implement UN resolutions calling for a referendum.

India's version of events: Pakistan implemented an economic blockade of Kashmir to force the maharaja to accede to Pakistan. When this failed Pakistan next sent armed Pathan tribesmen into Kashmir to forcibly annex it. Maharaja Hari Singh was thus obliged to seek India's assistance, and on October 26th 1947 Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession. Indian forces entered Kashmir and fighting continued until the battle stabilized. Eventually the United Nations arranged a cease-fire January 1st 1949 and the cease-fire line became known as the Line of Control. Approximately a quarter of the western portion of the state is occupied by Pakistan, with the remainder a part of India. A plebiscite has never been held as promised because Pakistan never fulfilled a prerequisite condition - the complete withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Kashmir. Subsequently, free and fair elections have been held in Kashmir. Lastly, the future of the disputed territory is to be worked out by bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan as called for in the Simla agreement.

Pakistan's viewpoint -- India's viewpoint

The Future: The ideal future would be an independent Kashmir. It is a beautiful region of snowcapped mountains and clear lakes, covering approximately 86,000 square miles. Once a tourist destination, it has been ravaged by years of fighting (Two faces of Kashmir - war and peace) and an estimated 60,000 people have died in the struggle between the two sides. The insurgents have carried out multiple acts of terror, while Indian troops have engaged in murder and torture, as documented by various human rights organizations e.g. Human Rights Watch. Unfortunately independence is a highly unlikely scenario, as it would require both parties to show a level of flexibility far beyond what they have shown themselves capable of. The immediate prognosis is that Kashmir will remain a running sore between India and Pakistan for the forseeable future. The interest shown by the US and the west in this latest flare-up is due to the fact that both countries are nuclear powers. However, despite western concern, the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used even if the tensions between these two countries breaks out into a full-scale war is negligible. India has a declared "no first use" policy, possesses military superiority (both in terms of quantity and quality), and professional armed forces that are under civilian control. There are no scenarios in which tactical use of nuclear weapons would be militarily useful to Pakistan, and thus Pakistan would only use them as a weapon of last resort if the very existence of the country were in doubt. This is an unlikely scenario, since immense international pressure would be brought to bear on India before this point would be reached. Any armed conflict now would not involve nuclear weapons. However, it is very likely that in five to ten years these countries will achieve advances in nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, and their delivery systems. This will significantly lower the nuclear threshold, and increase the risk of their use at a future point. Thus it is in everyone's interest that the question of Kashmir be resolved at this time when the risk of a nuclear exchange is low! The international community should push for a demilitarized and independent Kashmir as a solution to the problem.

© SNi 01/14/2002