Explainer: Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan

There are now more than 150 territorial disputes across the globe. Inda-Pakistan border dispute is one of the world’s most difficult and violent border disputes. The Line Of Control (LOC, is the border line drawn between India and Pakistan in Kashmir) is one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world – and it’s also one of the most restricted areas.

The Kashmir dispute dates back to 1947 and continues today, involving three nuclear powers- China,India and Pakistan.


India was world famous for its spices. Some European rulers gave their country citizens permission for spice trade with the Indian sub-continent. A group of British businessmen got the permission from the British crown to trade with India. These businessmen named their trading company ‘East India Company’.

The Indian sub-continent was always a bunch of different entities ruling different parts in India. During the arrival of the British in India, the most dominant empire in the Indian sub-continent was the Moghul Empire. The Moghul Empire acted as patrons(a person who gives financial or other support) to many smaller kingdoms all over India.

With the collapse of the Moghul Empire, which began in the 18th century, the British East India Company began acting as a patron. They offered sophisticated agreements to different ruling families in India , which gave the British control over the management of the kingdoms, while the Indian rulers were rulers in official titles and spent most of their time having a royal life. Slowly the British began seizing Indian land and making it, East India Company’s property. The British also established factories and began using the cheap Indian work force.

Not all Indian rulers were happy with the British annexation process. Some of the Indian rulers began fighting with the British East India Company. Among them were the Marathas in west India, the rulers of Mysore in south India and the Sikhs in north India. The British won in these wars against the local rulers and gave different status to the occupied land. A large part of the land captured from the Marathas by 1803 became part of province(region or territory) named Bombay. The East India Company directly ruled the provinces through a British representative. While in Mysore, in south India, the East India Company defeated and executed the ruler Tipu Sultan in 1799 and replaced him with another Indian ruling family. But in general the East India Company’s policy was annexation of Indian territories and turning them into British property.

In 1857 a revolt against the British arose in which, different rulers in India collaborated to defeat the British East India Company. This revolt did not succeed and the British defeated their organized Indian rivals. After this revolt the British crown took back the permission given to the East India Company and began ruling India directly through a Viceroy.

The British ruled India with two administrative systems. One was ‘Provinces’ and the other ‘Princely States’.About 60% of the Indian sub-continent’s territory were Provinces and 40% were Princely States.

There were 11 Provinces in British India. These Provinces were under direct British control. These Provinces were formerly Indian entities, which the British seized from the Indian rulers, attached them together and turned them into British Provinces. Some of these Provinces were Bombay, Madras, Bengal, Assam and United Provinces.

The British also stopped the process of seizing Indian territories and came to agreement with different ruling families in the Indian sub-continent which made these families rulers of their kingdoms. These kingdoms were called Princely States. In these Princely States the rulers were responsible for the interior administration of their kingdoms but they were subjected to British policy. If necessary the British have right to interfere in the interior matters of these states. The different Princely States had different agreements with the British. Some even had their own state coins. Some Hindu rulers were titled as Rajas, Maharajas, Ranas etc. The Muslim rulers were titled as Nawab, Nizam and other titles.

The concept of princely states helped British to keep the uprising and rebellions under control as the people were more loyal to the local ruler. Also they were able to keep the kings of various states from uniting against the British with many favourable agreements and gun salutes. Wherever they thought direct control was possible, predominantly with a sea port and harbor they established as provinces.

British granted independence to India in 1947. India was split to provide a new nation for the Muslims – Pakistan.

When the British gave the Indian sub-continent independence in 1947, 562 princely states were officially recognised in the Indian subcontinent. Some of them like Kashmir, Mysore and Hyderabad were as large as England. There were also smaller Princely states like Junagad, Udaipur, Janjira, Aundh and Cochin apart from thousands of zamindaris and jagirs.

As India was split to provide a new nation for the Muslims -Pakistan, these princely states had the option of deciding either to join India or Pakistan, or of remaining independent.
Many princely states wanted to be “independent” (which would have meant that the rulers wanted to rule their princely states and do not want to join either of the countries). But the people in the princely states had been fighting for freedom from British rule, and their struggle about to become true they were not willing to let the princes to rule . So people started revolting against the princes. Because of people’s protests which turned violent in many princely states, the princes agreed to join with the newly formed nations.

What is Kashmir?

Kashmir is a Himalayan region that borders India, Pakistan and China. Known for its majestic landscape, it was known as “paradise on Earth”.

From about 1350-1580 it came under Islamic rule after attack from the Turkic & Afghan warriors. In this period, Islam spread through the Kashmir region much faster than in rest of India as the rulers actively promoted. After that the whole region came under the Mughal empire.

In the 18th century, as the Mughal empire collapsed, Kashmir region came under the Sikhs. The Sikhs were defeated by the British & not knowing what to do with it, they put it on a sale for Rs.75 lakhs & sold to Gulab Singh (a Dogra leader who was loyal to the British). From 1846 until 1947, the descendents of Gulab Singh ruled the state.

When the conflict started?

Kashmir was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh when India got Independence. It could choose to join either India or Pakistan. Unable to decide which nation Kashmir should join, Maharaja Hari Singh chose to remain independent because of which people started protesting.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of Pakistan wanted every Muslim majority region in India to be part of Pakistan. By that time 75% of the Kashmir region was Muslim and thus Jinnah wanted this to be a part of Pakistan.

The newly created Pakistan sent armed tribesmen from Pakistan’s north-west province to force the king to join Pakistan and they invaded Kashmir in October 1947. Forces of Raja Hari Singh were defeated by the tribal forces from Pakistan. The tribal forces already occupied till Srinagar. Due to this invasion from the tribes, the Maharaja requested armed assistance from the government of India. He agreed to join India in return for protecting his region from the Pakistan invasion. Thus India air-lifted Indian troops for operations to stop the Pakistan tribal invasion.

Indian and Pakistani forces thus fought their first war over Kashmir in 1947-48. Pakistanis were pushed back to the current border as you can see the white dotted borders in the map.

India requested the involvement of the UN Security Council. The Council passed a resolution that imposed an immediate ceasefire(a temporary stopping of fight) and withdrawal of Pakistani troops . In addition, it stated that India could continue to have a minimum military presence and the final decision on the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made by the people of Jammu and Kashmir through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite( the public opinion through votes) conducted under the United Nations. The ceasefire was enacted , however Pakistan did not withdraw its troops from the region and a plebiscite was not conducted, leading to the beginning of increasing unrest in the region.

For India, the region belongs to India as the last king has agreed to join India. Its history & culture is similar to the rest of India and the many religions in this region will die under an Islamic state of Pakistan.

For Pakistan, the region belongs to her as the three-fourths of the region was Muslim at the time of partition in 1947. The geography favors Pakistan too.

Added to that, the main water supply for Western India & Pakistan – Indus, passes through Kashmir & controlling Kashmir provides an advantage when it comes to water.

The Indus begins in Tibet, and then flows through India (Kashmir) & Pakistan. If India control the Indus, they could use it for agriculture &electricity generation. Indus is a major source of water for Agriculture activities in Pakistan. So, even Pakistan wants to have more control on the Water quantity that flows in Indus in order to fulfill their agriculture & other needs.Pakistan does not trust India, nor does India trust Pakistan. They both want substantial control.

Since both countries had equal rights and intentions, the situation reached an impasse(a situation in which no progress is possible, especially because of disagreement; a deadlock) and the ceasefire line of 1948 has become the unofficial border between India and Pakistan – the Line of Control.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the territorial issue — in 1947 and in 1965.
A third conflict between India and Pakistan erupted in 1999 after Pakistani-backed forces infiltrated Indian-controlled Kashmir in the Kargil area.

This is the reason of conflict between India and Pakistan about Jammu and Kashmir. There were other conflicted regions too as you can see in the map.

Other issues :

Complicating matters, China has also extended its influence, and control, over portions of Kashmir, largely with the support of Pakistan.

In 1963, in an agreement between China and Pakistan, Pakistan ceded hundreds of square kilometers of land in Northern kashmir and Ladakh to China. In the map, you can see the region ceded by Pakistan to China.

The westernmost, Aksai Chin, is claimed by India as part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and region of Ladakh. China claims that Aksai Chin belongs to China and it was wrongly included in Indian maps. India never thought that China would ever launch an attack, but it did. India was attacked on October 20, 1962 in what famously came to be known as Sino-India war of 1962. The belief of not ever being attacked by China did not let the Indian army prepare and the result was the standoff between 10,000-20,000 Indian troops and 80,000 Chinese troops. The war continued for about a month and ended on November 21. Thus China occupied till the current state Aksai Chin.

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