An Overview And Analysis Of The Kashmir Dispute Politics Essay

Account for the persistence of the Kashmir dispute. Without doubt, whenever a people have the chance to live in a country surrounded with beautiful scenery, they would be satisfied, and never wish to leave. For Kashmiris, however, this image is only a mirage, and a forlorn hope. The mountainous region of Kashmir in South Asia, once the most beautiful valley in the world, has recently been converted into a war zone, with the attendant labels of ‘the most dangerous place on earth’ (Sidhu et al. 2007: 1), or the ‘valley of death’ (Schofield, 2003: 1).

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The partition of India and Pakistan, which was delineated by religious demographics, following the dissolution of the British Raj in 1947, directly led to the contentious issue of Kashmir which remains unresolved to this day. Both countries have claimed that the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir should be annexed and form an integral part of their territory. The conflict corresponds to the convergence of nationalism, India premise rests on civic-secular nationalism; Pakistan presents religious (Muslim) nationalism; and the idea of Kashmiriyat embodies ethnic nationalism in the Kashmir Valley itself (Ganguly, 2010: 577). The disputed legacy of Kashmir sowed the seeds of three major India-Pakistan Wars in 1947-48, 1965, and 1999. To some extent, during the 2001-02 crises, the two countries almost reached the point of nuclear war (Sharma, 2007: 199). The aftermath from the First Kashmir War denoted Kashmir as the region which includes the Indian-administered Kashmir: the Kashmir Valley (or the Vale), Jammu, and Ladakh, as well as, the Pakistani-administered Kashmir: Azad (Free) Kashmir and the northern territories of Gilgit and Hunza, and later from the agreement between Pakistan and China in 1963, the Aksai Chin region is under Chinese-control (Shama, 2007: 198). This tense deadlock has permeated all levels of Kashmiri society, and is a prominent part of their history, ethnicity and religion which has continued to haunt them; not only is it a tragedy for all Kashmiris, but a tragedy for the regional stability of South Asia, and global peace (Hewitt, 2003: 59). Regrettably, warfare, rather than diplomacy, has been the hallmark of relations between India and Pakistan.

This essay will analyse the ongoing dispute over Kashmir, which continues to stoke hostilities, and several skirmishes, in the region. The arguments are organized as follows: the first section explains in detail why the state of Jammu and Kashmir has remained an area of intractability by exploring the causes of the problems in terms of the geographical dimension, political perspectives through historical evolution, the religious dimensions of the Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits, and finally the potential ethnic nationalist impact in what Kashmiris specifically designate as Kashmiriyat. The second section clarifies the attempts of Indian foreign policies to maintain the Kashmir under civic nationalism, along with section three, which will look at some of the Pakistani foreign policy for claiming Kashmir with the theoretical approach of religious ethno-nationalism. Section four will examine whether the independence of Kashmir is possible, while section five dedicates some alternative resolutions to the genesis of the crises.

The geography of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has provoked numerous conflicts in the South Asian region, since it is lies at the centre of the junction of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and India. Consequently, it has therefore served as a buffer state between those countries. Kashmir is also a strategic route, linked with Eastern Europe, and the Caspian Sea, which holds an important oil reserve, as noted in the survey of the Unocal Company (Unocal Congressional Record, 1998). Aksai Chin is also crucially important for China because it is the only one way to Tibet, the Xinjiang region, and Pakistan. China could use this route out to the Indian Ocean through the port of Karachi. Through mutual interest, China and Pakistan may indeed become closer allies. China could, perhaps, build the Karakoram Highway allowing them to rapidly transport arms and weapons, and more importantly, to dispatch troops, around three hundred in Tibet, to aid Pakistan (Maluleem, 2010). Hence, the geography of Kashmir is highly significant for all of these countries, but especially India and Pakistan. The two nuclear armed states have competed with each other to gain the entire territory of Kashmir, and thus strengthen their borders (Wilhelm, 2010: 20).

From a political perspective, the historical evolution of Kashmir dates back to the colonial era of the British Raj. During this era, there were around 546 princely states which freely decided between gaining independence and merging with either New Delhi or Karachi. Geographical juxtaposition and the religion of the majority of its inhabitants were considered in the decision (Behera, 2006: 16-19). At that time, the Maharaja, commanding the largest princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, remained undecided, because his aim was to get independence or autonomy. The situation conversely worsened when challenged with the riots, and a tribal invasion supported by the Pakistani army (Hewitt, 2007: 289). With some trepidation, the Maharaja urgently sought India’s military assistance under the condition of signing the Instrument of Accession with India. He complied to sign this agreement, and shortly afterwards Indian armed forces entered Kashmir to repel the invaders (Indurthy 2011: 2). The result of signing this agreement, for India, was that it now meant the state of Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India legally and constitutionally (Singh, 1999: 156). Pakistan disagreed and this led to the first Indo-Pak war in 1948. To end the hostilities; India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, following consultation with British Governor General Lord Mountbatten, requested that the UN Security Council find a peaceful settlement between India and Pakistan. The establishment of the UN commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) believed that a plebiscite, after the withdrawal of tribal combatants and a ceasefire agreement, was one of the resolutions, but to no avail (Indurthy, 2011: 3). One-third of the former Dogra kingdom was still in control of Pakistan and two-thirds with India (Behera, 2006: 7-9). As a result of this lack of trust between these two states, it then gave rise to two major wars in 1967, and 1999, the so-called Kargil War, and, even today, numerous skirmishes continue to plague Kashmir. India claims that most insurgencies within the Kashmir region have been reinforced with separatist groups, militants and other infiltrators supported by Pakistan (Hewitt 2007: 290), while Pakistan blames India for operating a state of terror in Kashmir (Choudhry and Akhtar, 2010: 52).

In examining the ongoing crisis in Kashmir, it is necessary to emphasise the dilemmas of the different religious forces between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits (Pandits being Kashmiri Hindus). Both Muslims and Pandits believe themselves to be vulnerable, and anticipate that their religion should be the defining cultural identity of the state. Historically, the former state of Jammu and Kashmir had been ruled by many leaders from a variety of religions. They and their followers played a vital role in shaping the history and affairs between themselves and other religions. Administrative power, at least, which mostly links with their religion, has led to a change in domestic and international politics, civil society, and social network. According to Wilhelm (2010: 5) the most important period of the prolonged conflict was during the Hindu authoritarian leadership of the Dogra Maharaja, Gulab Singh, who ruled the majority of Kashmiri Muslims in 1846 when he purchased Kashmir from the British government, whilst Jammu had a largely Hindu population. During the Dogra kingdom, Hindus benefitted most from the state, and in such manner, the Dogra rulers thus maintained their supremacy (Zutshi, 2004: 47). The religious resistance manifesto meant that Muslim Kashmiris were neglected (Rai, 2004: 46-51). Furthermore, since 1947, the Kashmiri Muslims have been under the political control of the Central Indian Government, which has been represented by Indian secularists and Hindu nationalists. There are some who believe that India must be responsible for the safeguarding of the Kashmiri Hindu community. The unrest in 2008 highlights this point. The Indian government made a decision to transfer of 98.5 acres of land to the Hindu Shri Amarnathji Shrine in Muslim-majority South Kashmir (BBC 2008). This decision immediately led to an uprising of Kashmiri Muslims (Kumar, 2008). Conversely, the influence of Kashmiri Muslims tended to become of further importance to the emergence of Islamic nationalism, such as the newly young educated Kashmiri Muslims the so-called Students’ Islamic Federation, or Jamaat-e-Islami, and the secessionist JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front). Yet, the rise of these organisations might broadly expand the conflict within Kashmir further (Sharma, 2007: 200). An example of the serious threat posed by these movements is the high-profile killings of Kashmiri Pandits or individual Hindu political leaders in 1989. Since these incidents, it seemed that a group of Islamic fundamentalists increasingly attacked Hindu civilians directly (Wilhelm, 2010: 64). Most Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley were afraid of these developments, which both the local and Indian government were unable to resolve. They started leaving Jammu to live in other parts of India often in squalid refugee camps (Evans, 2002: 22; Hassan, 2010: 7). Thus, it is difficult at present to reconcile such religious differences between Islam and Hindu in Kashmir.

A problematic tenet of Kashmiriyat itself plausibly persists in the Kashmir dispute. In the early 20th century, Sheikh Abdullah, the father of Kashmiri nationalism, believed that one of the best resolutions to reconcile the Kashmir conflict was the revival of the idea known as Kashmiriyat (Arakotaram, 2009: 26). If the Kashmiriyat were victorious, Kashmir may achieve independence. The idea of Kashmiri ethnic nationalism has been described among diverse religions and ethnicities, specifically the minority Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs and the majority Sunni Muslims, tied national socio-cultural identities together (Sabhlok, 2002: 25-26). The spirit of Kashmiriyat as a political identity, however, is confronted with many obstacles. Kashmir is presently bitterly divided between each group who were uncertain about their security. The tendency of the religious element within Kashmiri identity is considerably much stronger. From the Kashmiri Pandits’ perspective, they are not completely confident with Sheikh Abdullah, or his government, since they suspect that his secular political discourse is a scheme to distract the Indian central government (Pasha, 1992, 371-3). Rather, in post era of the Sheikh Abdullah administration, the Kashmiri Muslims increasingly played a role in the political arena. More significantly, Sunni Muslims who mostly lived in the Valley were closely bound together with a religious identity, much more than secular one (Hewitt, 2003: 81). They became a demurring influence of the Indian government, who desired to transform Kashmir by initiating the realm of Islamisation, or Islamic identity, in order to seek political autonomy for themselves without the Indian government’s intervention (Varshney, 1992, 219-221). Wilhelm (2010: 41) argued that ‘[b]eing a Kashmiri is no different from being a Muslim’. As a representative of Kashmiriyat, both the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and the National Conference have expressed serious doubts about their legitimacy. For example, the National Conference is divided into two main ideologies: secular and religious tones of the movement. A few of the politicians supporting the religious discourse believed that ‘Hindus and Muslims were two nations and that Islam did not accept Hindu integration into a social and political unity’ (Wilhelm, 2010: 19). Moreover, some local political parties held policies opposing the secular approach by extensively replacing the religious disposition (Behera, 2006: 19-23). They were encouraged by the Kashmiri Muslim fundamentalists who intended to fill the social space with religious ideas and motivations, rather than secularism (Chowdhary and Rao, 2004: 1521)

The Kashmir dispute can be considered within the circumstances of international politics, specifically the turbulent relations that shape Indian and Pakistani foreign policies. Both nations view on the question of Kashmir are based on the idea that ‘Kashmir remains unfinished business of partition’ (Kaul, 2011: 71). The civic-secular movement of Indian nationalists and the National Congress never accepted Jinnah’s two-nation theory. They did not believe is separating the territory of Kashmir between the two religions of Hindus and Muslims as the best alternative (Varshney, 1991: 2001). India believed that she could create harmony with Kashmiri Muslims through a civic nationalist approach. Almost 110 million Indians are Muslim, and make up the second largest Muslim population in the world. In addition, India has already noted that 35% of the Kashmiri population are Hindus and Buddhists, who primarily live in Jammu and Ladakh respectively, and favour being part of the Indian Union, rather than independence (Indurthy, 2011: 11). The idea of a Kashmiri identity for the National Conference were likewise secular, on they are for the Indian National Congress. The Indian civic-secular approach, nevertheless, faces some difficulties in terms of its approach and the rise of Hindu nationalism. Although a set of political ideas, Civic Nationalism would promote justice, tolerance, and the rule of law, but the Indian Muslims would be equivalent to disadvantaged minority. Gangulay (2010: 577) concluded that Indian foreign policy seeks to hold on to Kashmir ‘for reasons of statecraft rather than a sterling commitment to secularism’. In addition, the purpose of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Hindu nationalist party is to alter the conditions of political discourse by promoting material benefits for Hindus (Duschinski, 2009: 696). To demonstrate civic-secular credentials, and prevent the internal domino effect, India cannot afford to lose Kashmir to another state or to let Kashmir become an independent state (Wilhelm, 2010: iii). Indian foreign policy also emphasises bilateral negotiation, but only under the conditions of the Simla agreement with Pakistan. The speech of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 16th July 2007 addressed that “Jammu and Kashmir can one day become the symbol of India Pakistan cooperation rather than conflict” (Choudhry and Akhtar, 2010: 51). The principle of Indian foreign policy from the 1970s has accordingly rejected any outside intervention, or third-party mediation.

Depicting the image of an Islamic republic, Pakistan stands for a homeland for Muslims and ethnic minorities of South Asia. With the ideology of religious nationalism by emphasising Islamisation, Pakistan believed that Kashmir, being a Muslim majority state, should be ceded to join with her at the time of partition (Varshney, 1991: 999). However, the failure of Pakistani irredentism is that Islam alone could not guarantee national cohesion, as illustrated by the creation of Bangladesh in 1971; the co-religionists in Kashmir are unnecessary claim (Sabhlok, 2002: 30). Rather, Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the terrorist movements by Indian government. According to Wolpert (2010: 3), India believed the development of the insurgency in Kashmir originated from the base of Taliban terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda within Waziristan’s North-West Frontier Province. In this regard, this base has been aided and directly assisted with Pakistan’s army and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (Hasan, 2011). In addition, India is also still concerned about the formation of extremist movements within Pakistan that tend to gradually increase from time to time (Rashid 2010: 368). These extremist groups consist of Afghan, Arab and Pakistani mujahedeen, or mujahidin [1] , the terrorist Lashkar-i-Toyiba, the Jaish-i-Mohammed, Harkatul Mujahideen and the Hizbul Mujahideen (Sharma, 2007: 200). Most of these militant groups have stated that they are members of the United Jihad Council (UJC). They are well-trained to mainly support the domestic Muslim separatist groups in Kashmir against the Hindu Kashmiri Pandits, or to operate in covert wars across the Line of Control (Ganguly, 1997, 42-43). The main purpose of these Mujahideens is to assist Kashmiris until they are free from Indian occupation (Hasan, 2011). Despite disapproval from the Pakistani Prime Minister, the Pakistani militarily authorities still neither moved, nor infiltrated those mujahideen crossing into Indian-controlled border (Hewitt, 2003: 91). Cleaning the image of a terrorist state, an important feature of Pakistani foreign policy over Kashmir dispute has therefore been to promote a multilateral approach in the international forum. Pakistan’s Prime minister, Presidents and diplomats emphasise that the Kashmir problem should become the international issue. It is not sufficient to resolve this issue just in its bilateral terms with India. They manipulate every diplomatic stage, such as the composite dialogue, and back-diplomacy.

From the Dogra rule until now, the viability of Kashmiri Independence, or secession, particularly in the Indian-administered Kashmir, must be considered as an alternative resolution, and it is the long-term desire for the Maharaja, the Mirwaiz [2] , Sheikh Abdullah, and Kashmiris themselves. This is because distinctive Kashmiri identities seem unmatched in either the Indian civic-secular nationalism or the Pakistani religious nationalism (Duschinski, 2009: 696). The success of becoming an independent state depends not only on a Kashmiri Muslim-majority’s support per se, but should be involved with other ethnic groups, such as the Dogra Hindus, the Punjabi Muslims in Jammu, and the Tibetan Buddhists in Ladakh (Varshney, 1991: 1003-4). Owing to Sheikh Abdullah’s statement with the publication of The New Kashmir in 1944, he believed that Kashmir should be an independent state as ‘the Switzerland of South Asia’ (Hewitt 2003: 76). Wolpert (2010: 2) argued that although the UN recommended both Pakistan and India conduct a plebiscite as the best and fairest solution for self-determination solution among Kashmiris after the ceasefire in 1948, this was completely rejected by India. India believes that a plebiscite is, perhaps, conducive to the secession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Although Pakistan supported a plebiscite was supported, it has never accepted the idea of Kashmir’s independence as a favourable outcome. Under Indian administration, the Kashmir region has, however, gained political rights in terms of autonomy by the special provisions of Article 370, which exceed those of other Indian states (Akbar, 1991: 187). Kashmir is essentially already a self-governing state with its land, resources, and a separate constitution (Wilhelm, 2010: 21). In the 1990’s, self-determination re-emerged in the Kashmiri political movements, militants, and particularly the alliance known as the Muslim United Front (MUF) (Hassan 2010: 1). The MUF aimed at amending article 370 to further augment the path to independence. Even though the MUF publicly expected to win the election in 1987, it could get only five seats (Akbar, 1991: 10). It is proven fact that there was a massive electoral fraud, and indicated that Kashmiri political parties, which were closely engaged with India, would win in the state elections. Most Kashmiri Muslims thought that their political rights for voicing were ignored. To stipulate the plebiscite effectively, the APHC was then formed to compromise any alternative viewpoints by the early 1990s. The Conference consists of various political, social and religious organizations in Kashmir Valley (Choudhry and Akhtar, 2010: 51). However, the movement of the APHC has still been confronted with the rejection of the Indian Central government. Hence, the desire of independence remains just a chimera for Kashmiris.

Over the past six decades, there have been many proposals to resolve the ongoing Kashmir dispute in order to achieve any comprehensive resolution. There are three levels to be considered to resolve the conflict: domestic (the cooperation of Kashmiris), regional (the interests of India and Pakistan), and international (through regional and international organisations) levels. For lasting resolution, all the Kashmiri parties should be involved with these proposals. Interestingly, both in the regional and international dialogue, it has always been ignored which resolution the people of Kashmir wish to pursue. Good evidence of this is that they were not even part of the delegation to the Tashkent Declaration, or the Simla Accord (Choudhry and Akhtar, 2010: 53). Hardly have they permitted to express their opinion in the formal forum of either India or Pakistan as well. As a result, they have tended to becoming demonstrators, or part of a militant group. Every important procedure should be broadly opened for the Kashmiri’s voice. It would seem that the relationship between India and Pakistan should be considered to this end a complex problem. The two neighbouring countries have long history of mistrust. They need to compromise, and to cooperate through confidence-building measures, peaceful dialogue, and an avoidance of force. A friendly agreement between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute together might thus be an initial start to improving their relations. Indurthy (2011: 27) suggested that, for the Pakistani side, cross-border terrorism should be stopped, and camps for illegal insurgents annihilated, while, for the Indian side, Kashmir should be openly discussed as part of a composite dialogue. Both countries resumed the composite dialogue in the meeting between Pakistani President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee during SAARC summit in January 2004. They hoped the meetings would improve their relations. The eight major issues discussed included the Kashmir dispute (Wolpert, 2010: 4). In particular, in April 2005, their government signed a joint statement, the “Delhi joint statement”, by deciding to resolve the problem of Kashmir through negotiations (Sharma, 2007: 201-2). At the international level, the world leaders, the international organisations, and specifically South Asian countries should be involved for resolving this fragile issue, and thus avert another India-Pakistan war. They should encourage these two nuclear countries to proceed with dialogue, and resolve the Kashmir dispute with diplomatic, rather than military approaches. Combining these three levels for a Kashmiri resolution: peace, security and prosperity, would be within easy reach of Kashmiris, and ensure stability for South Asian people, and more importantly, all global citizens.

In conclusion, the partition of the British Raj in 1947, led both India and Pakistan into the highly contentious issue of Kashmir. Each claims that Kashmir should be a part of their territory. After the ceasefire agreement following the Indo-Pak war in 1948, Kashmir was divided into two parts. Azad Kashmir and the Northern Territories of Gilgit and Hunza are under the control of Pakistan, while India administers the Kashmir Valley, Jammu, and Ladakh regions. There are many reasons why Kashmir persists in being a problematic area. Firstly, with beautiful scenery and its geographic strategy, Kashmir is an attraction for other countries around its territory. Those countries wish for domination over Kashmir that would bring benefits to their countries in terms of security and prosperity. Secondly, there is the problem of the political perspective. India claimed that Maharaja had signed the Instrument of Accession with her, so its control of Kashmir was a legitimate matter. However, under the ideology of Two-Nation Theory, Pakistan believed that the majority of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is Muslim; in this case, Kashmir should become Pakistani territory. The intractable problems of diverse religions, especially between Hindu and Muslim, and heterogeneous ethnic groups within Kashmir tend to broaden the conflict further. Finally, Kashmiriyat hardly appears in the contemporary context, because the National Conference could not compromise with the different views from its diverse ethnic groups. The persistence of the Kashmir issue can be scrutinised through Pakistani and Indian foreign policy. Their policies are unique, with different ideological commitments. Pakistan promotes religious nationalism, and prefers to resolve the Kashmir dispute with a multilateral approach, while India promotes a civic-secular state, and believes that Kashmir should be resolved with bilateral approach only. The independence of state of Jammu and Kashmir remains a contentious issue, but the idea has not been totally rejected by either Pakistan or India. In spite of having to reconcile their attempts through multilateral, bilateral, and even unilateral resolution, Kashmir continues to be ‘troubled and fraught’ (Gangulay, 2010: 577). Hence, the bitter conflict over Kashmir might have ended, but to establish lasting peace, if that is what each party desires to reach successfully, then it must begin with the Kashmiris themselves. Only ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and India, and the support from countries around the world, through regional and international organisations, can hope to achieve this aim.