Kashmir and the Partition of India

June 7, 2019 11:41 pm68 commentsViews: 114

In the mid-nineteenth century Kashmir was a collection of culturally different territories brought together under the control of one, Hindu, Maharaja by the British. In 1947 his successor was given the onerous task of deciding whether to join India or Pakistan. Given that two-thirds of the population were Muslims the expectation was that he would opt for Pakistan.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given that the state bordered both the newly created independent countries, the Maharaja delayed his decision, maybe even harbouring ideas of independence himself. When his position came under threat from the majority Muslim population he sought military assistance from India. The price of India’s help was his signature on a treaty of accession.

Kashmir Today

India maintains the Instrument of Accession, accepted by Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the Governor General of India, gives their claims international legitimacy. Pakistan, on the other hand, argue the area is disputed territory whose future should be determined by the people of Kashmir.

Since 1947 the area has seen wars, between Pakistan and India and India and China, uprisings, insurgency, claims and counter claims but no sign of a lasting solution. As a result the demography of the area has changed significantly with Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh now being controlled by India, Pakistan controlling Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas and China occupying Aksai Chin.

Given Kashmir’s strategic importance it is highly unlikely that any of the countries directly involved, all nuclear powers, would be prepared to give up territory. Even the prospect of this happening would create a political backlash in both India and Pakistan whilst China would risk parallels being drawn with Tibet.

In a truly democratic society Kashmiris would be allowed to determine their own fate. Unfortunately, the wishes of the local people are secondary to the wider political and strategic imperative and given the current international climate neither an independent Kashmir nor a Muslim controlled state would be universally acceptable.

As a consequence of fragmentation and ongoing uncertainty, social and economic development is being stifled increasing unrest and creating a platform for those intent on exploitation and destabilisation. Peace talks between India and Pakistan were suspended following the 2008 Mumbai attacks which India blamed on Pakistan based militants.

South Asia: Terrorism Threat

Many Kashmiris and Pakistanis regard militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir as freedom fighters. Others, including Pakistan President Asif Adil Zardari, have denounced them as terrorists (BBC News October 2008).

Although violence in India controlled Kashmir has declined in the past few years there has been a worrying increase in bombings in the Pakistan administered region raising fears that the Taliban could be expanding their area of operations.

On a visit to Kashmir earlier this month, President Zardari called upon the international community, consumed by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to add Kashmir to that agenda before it becomes another haven of terrorism and a major threat to the stability of South Asia.

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