The genesis of the Kashmir issue goes back to the decolonization of British India and its eventual partition into India and Pakistan in 1947 (Bidwai). After independence, India and Pakistan embarked on acquiring neighboring Kingdoms (Hilali, 5). Kashmir was one of the highly sought after Kingdoms by these two countries (5). This was because Kashmir’s location was vital to the “strategic, economic and defense requirements of both India and Pakistan” (Hilal, 2). Therefore, both countries wanted to hold on to Kashmir arousing a conflict (2). The Kashmir conflict has led to three wars between India and Pakistan (Carter Center, 2). As a result, the people of Kashmir and the two countries have experienced immense losses (Shekhawat, 2). Official estimates indicate that approximately 40,000 lives have been lost and one million people displaced since 1989 (2). Consequently, numerous peace processes have been initiated in an attempt to solve this issue. The signing of a cease-fire between India and Pakistan on November 26, 2003 remains as the most remarkable effort so far (Shekhawat, 4). This paper looks at the confrontation between Indian and Pakistani over Kashmir from the partitioning of the British Indian Empire to date.
According to Cohen origin of the Kashmir conflict can be traced to a number of sources (Cohen 1). However, the failure to administer a peaceful and an acceptable partition of Colonia India and personal short falls of both Indian and Pakistani leaders remain as the main sources of the conflict (1). The British erred by dividing colonial India along religious lines into India and Pakistan. As a result, India and Pakistan turned out to be predominantly Hindu and Muslim respectively (Bidwai). Accordingly, the problem over Kashmir arose when India claimed all neighboring Hindu-majority area, but rejected claims of Muslim-majority area of Kashmir by Pakistan (Hajni, 1). Besides, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian leader and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Pakistani leader, were in constant disagreement over the coexistence of Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir (Hilali, 5). Therefore, the actual causes of the Kashmir conflict were not only territorial disputes but also differences in domestic politics and ideologies between Indians and Pakistanis (Hilali, 5).
Like most conflicts in the world, the Kashmir issue is a paired minority dispute (Carter Center, 2). In a paired minority dispute, each party involved claim to be weak, threatened and under attack (2). Moreover, any move by one party is likely to be countered by the other in pretence of self defense. Due to the reasons above, the Kashmir conflict has ignited three wars between India and Pakistan, (Indurthy, 2). These wars came about when both countries tried to consolidate their grip over Kashmir. India and Pakistan fought their first war over Kashmir in 1947 (Carter Center, 2). This war prompted the United Nation to draw a ceasefire line in 1949 (Hilali, 2).This ceasefire line was known as the ‘Line of Control’ and ran for about 500 miles (2). Its purpose was to separate territories controlled by India and Pakistan in the Kashmir area (2). The second war took place on August 1965, when Pakistan initiated the “operation Gibraltar” (Hilali, 12). This operation tried to free Kashmir from India’s control (12). Both sides later accepted the UN Soviet resolution for a ceasefire on 17 September 1965 (12). Lastly, in 1999, India and Pakistan fought again in the town of Kargil (12). A year earlier, both countries had exploited nuclear power (12). Consequently, USA intervened quickly to avert a possible nuclear war (12).
The Kashmir conflict assumed a global perspective after the emergence of modern-day terrorism, (Cohen, 1). This was because Kashmir harbored training sites for world’s key terrorist groups (Hilali, 1). This meant that initiating a peace process between Pakistan and India was beneficial to both countries as well as the whole world. Moreover, any conflict over Kashmir would have aggravated terrorism by diverting attention from the war against it (Hilal, 18). As a result, serious interventions in trying to end the sixty year old conflict commenced. On November 26, 2003, a major break-through in finding a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue materialized when a peace treaty between India and Pakistan was signed (Shekhawat, 4). Furthermore, according to the Carter Center more talks followed which saw the two countries adopting different stands (4). Pakistan supports a plebiscite that calls for the Kashmir people to decide their own political status (4). On the other hand, India wants the Line of Control to be converted into an international border (Bidwai). To date, an agreement is yet to be reached, but there is optimism that the ongoing peace process will bear fruits.
In conclusion, it is true to say that the Kashmir issue is as old as India and Pakistan(Bidwai). Furthermore, maintenance of the status quo by both countries has made the situation worse (Indurthy, 32). This has led to more losses than benefits to both countriesand the people of Kashmir (Shekhawat, 2). In reaching a resolution, a considerable ground has been gained but this issue remains unsolved. Therefore, what remains is a responsibility that should be shared between India and Pakistan since the world has done its part (Bose, 2). Both countries should hence respect world opinion and negotiate with each other for a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue (Hilali, 2).
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