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The valley of Kashmir, famed for its beauty and tranquility, becomes a major flashpoint, threatening the stability of a region of great strategic importance to pose a nuclear threat for the entire world (Schofield V). This paper examines the Kashmir conflict, the peoples fight for self-determination and ways to solve the protracted conflict.  Pakistan has long claimed Kashmir on account of its largely Muslim population, while India has affirmed its legal possession of the territory since 1947. Kashmir is thus a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. The genesis of this crisis lies in the fact that when in 1947 British India was divided, Muslim majority areas went to Pakistan, and Hindu majority areas to India. The state of Jammu and Kashmir was one of 584 princely states of British India, with a Muslim majority, ruled by a Hindu Maharaja.


Kashmir holds a strategic position in Asia as it is surrounded by key countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. It is 86,000 sq miles (Ganguly S, 1997). ‘Kashmiri’ is a wide term applied for several streams of immigrants mainly from Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Afghanistan, and settled in the valley. The various ethnic groups of the Jammu and Kashmir state are Dards who occupy the valley of Gurez, Hanjis confined to water bodies of Kashmir; Gujjars and Bakarwals living and oscillating in the Kandi areas; Dogras occupying the outskirts of the Punjab plain, while Chibhalis and Paharis are living between Chenab and Jhelum rivers. Moreover, there are numerous small ethnic groups like Rhotas, Gaddis and Sikhs which have significant concentration in isolated pockets of the State (Ganguly S, 1997)

Historical background

Sumantra Bose (2005) has given a historical analysis in his book ‘Kashmir’. India and Pakistan first went to war in October 1947 after Pakistan supported a Muslim insurgency in Kashmir (Bose S, 2005). India agreed to a request for armed assistance from Kashmir’s Maharaja, in return for accession of the state to India. But the nature of that accession has long been the subject of debate. The war ended on Jan. 1, 1949, with the establishment of a ceasefire line sponsored by the United Nations. The then Indian Governor General Lord Mountbatten wrote that “the question of the State’s accession shall be settled by a reference to the people”(Bose S. 2005). The two resolutions passed on August 13, 1948, and January 5, 1949 regard that the future status of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite (Schofield V).The UN Security Council Resolution 122 of January 24, 1957, provides that, “the final disposition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations” ( Bose S, 2005). The modalities of such a plebiscite have been spelled out in the Security Council Resolution 47 of April 21, 1948 (Bose S, 2005). India initially agreed to hold the plebiscite. Indian then Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru pledged to the people of Kashmir an affirmation of the Kashmiri peoples right to self-determination. India later reneged on its commitment. Since then, it has contemptuously disregarded the various UNCIP and Security Council resolutions calling for the plebiscite and today we find that the disposition of Kashmir has not been legally decided. The Constitution of India was adopted on January 26, 1950 and there was no provision kept for self-determination in the Constitution. Therefore, the Government of India too had no right to talk about this plan. When the Constitution of India has not given the right to Government of India to review the questions of self-determination and accession, it is unconstitutional and illegal for any international organization to talk anything in the context of India. The entire dispute should have ended with the ratification of the accession by the Constituent Assembly on November 17, 1956 (Bose S, 2005). Both Pakistan and the Security Council have lost any right to talk anything about Kashmir or do anything about it. This Assembly adopted the Constitution of the State. The clause three of this Constitution makes it clear “Jammu and Kashmir is and will remain inseparable part of India.”(Bose S, 2005). On August 15, 1947 the Pakistan held Kashmir was also under the control of the ruler of the State. Therefore, it is evident that the entire Jammu and Kashmir State is an inseparable part of India. The Maharaja had acceded this undivided state to India. As such occupation of even an inch of the territory of Kashmir by Pakistan will be treated as aggression on India. This clause of the Constitution is further strengthened and shielded by clause 147. According to this clause, clause four cannot be nullified. And the Security Council too loses its right to give guidance and direction to India on matters connected with Kashmir (Bose S, 2005).

In 1948, India under the guidance of Pt Nehru, the then Prime –Minister of India unilaterally ordered cease-fire. It could have regained its two-third area of Kashmir. Later in 1965, the Pakistani offensive plan i.e. a thrust against Indian line of communication at Akhnur between Indian Corps holding Ravi-Sutlej Corridor at Jandiala Guru on Amritsar-Jullundhur road was a good maneuver to gain access over a large part of Kashmir ( Bose S, 2005). Such an aggressive step initiated by Pakistan would compel the Indians to sue for peace at best or they would surrender at worst as confessed by the Indian Western Command Capt. Harbaksh Singh (Bose S, 2005). But the Pakistani army failed due to operational failure in Chamb-Jaurian and organizational failure in Khem Karan. Thus the second Indo-Pak war ends after United Nation call for a ceasefire. The Soviet mediated Tashkent Declaration officially ends the war in January 1966.

In 1971, the Indians won great glory as they overran East Pakistan creating a new state of Bangladesh. This reduced Pakistan’s defense problems and increased their own problems by creating a new state. The Pakistanis conceived a fine plan to capture Poonch and Barapind but the Indian brigade commander at both the places was too resolute (Bose S, 2005). Pakistan had lost its face in both the wars but on both the occasions India bartered away its battle gains on the diplomatic level. When the Simla talks were going on, after the 1971 war, there were 93,000 Pakistani war prisoners with India and 5,000 sq. kms of Pakistani territory with India (Schofield V). But India allowed Pakistan to capture one-third area of Kashmir and returned 93,000 war prisoners. Through the Simla Agreement, Pakistan was also accepted as a party to the Kashmir issue.  Prior to this agreement, there was a cease-fire line between Kashmir and the occupied Kashmir but under the Simla Agreement this cease-fire line was converted to the Line of Actual Control. By this Agreement the Kashmir problem came out of the arena of the United Nations and became a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan. It was agreed upon in the Agreement that the two countries will maintain peaceful co-existence on the basis of equality and mutual interest, respect, for mutual regional solidarity and sovereignty and desist from interfering in the internal matters of each other. The two countries will remain committed to maintain cordial neighborly relations by resolving bilateral disputes through negotiations in order to establish durable peace.                        Again the 1999 crisis in Kargil were the result of an audacious Pakistani plan to inflict a sharp but highly subtle psychological defeat on the Indians by threatening the Indian line of communication to Leh and Siachen by placing a small Pakistani force on the heights overlooking the Dras-Kargil-Leh Road (Bose S, 2005). The 1999, Indo – Pakistan conflict over Kargil and consequent intermittent skirmishes have resulted in displacement of 60,000 to 100,000 people (Schofield V). The largest towns in the area, Kargil and Dras were completely deserted. The Line of Control separates India administered Kashmir from the Pakistan-administered counterpart from Dras in North Kashmir to Rajouri in the Jammu division. As a result it has remained a bone of contention between the two regional nuclear powers. Continuous exchange of artillery and light weapons across the Line of Control (LOC ) and on 87 infiltration routes have claimed 1,151 deaths including those of security personnel ( Schofield V). Thus Indo-Pak Military history is a continuous story of strategic failures and a mix of operational successes and failures.

Different groups and right to self determination

It is a reality that the right of self-determination in Kashmir is being given a religious base. Kashmir is a multi-ethnic state. Kashmir comprises three main regions Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Ethnically geographically and with respect to religion, the three regions are very diverse. Kashmir – is 90% Muslim, Jammu- which is 60% Hindu and Ladakh which is 60% Buddhist (Bose S, 2005). These linguistic and religious divisions have played a major role in the conflict with the pattern of being an important indicator The violence and the causalities are the maximum in the districts of the Kashmir Valley and some borders areas of Jammu whereas most of the plain areas and Hindu majority areas of Jammu are unaffected by the conflict (Fourth World Bulletin). Many agree that the will of Kashmiri Muslims who comprise the vast majority about 90% of Kashmir’s population has been denied rights by the Hindu state of India (World Fourth Bulletin). Others view that indigenous peoples have been caught in the cross-fire between India and Pakistan and between Hindus and Muslims. The Hindu Pandits and the Ladakhis who are Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist people are trying to retain their ancient culture and also regain some control of the remote, rugged plateau they call as ‘home’. The Panun (“our own”) Kashmir is an organization began in 1991 with 1,200 Pandits in Jammu (Fourth World Bulletin). They are demanding Union territory status and they blame Pakistan for waging a proxy war by supplying the Islamic terrorists with weapons and persuading the Kashmiri Muslims to join in the violence. On January 19, 1990, the central government imposed direct rule on the state. From the outset, the Indian government’s campaign against the militants was marked by widespread human rights violations, including the shooting of unarmed demonstrators, civilian massacres, and summary executions of detainees. On the other side, the militant groups stepped up their attacks, murdering and threatening Hindu residents, carrying out kidnappings and assassinations of government officials, civil servants, and suspected informers, and engaging in sabotage and bombings. With the encouragement and assistance of the government, some 100,000 Hindu Kashmiris, known as “Pandits,” fled the valley (Fourth World Bulletin). The Kashmir violence claims almost 30,000-40,000 casualties annually (Fourth World Bulletin).

On May 2002, both India and Pakistan tests a series of nuclear capable ballistic missile and signals that threatens the peace of the Asian subcontinent.

Theories associated

The Kashmir conflict from a theoretical perspective is based on primordialism as a distinct ethnic and religious community, the muslims fight for self-determination with the aid of Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Lashkar e Taiyaba. But this ‘protracted social conflict’ has been classified as instrumentalism. According to Anthony Smith (2001), ethnic leaders use their cultural groups as sites of mass-mobilization and as constituencies in their competition for power and resources. According to Madhumita Srivastava (2001), the Kashmir conflict involves historical, political, economic, cultural and security aspects. She regards that, the “Kashmir conflict is primarily and fundamentally an ethnic conflict……and its resolution may be found in upholding, rejuvenating and establishing the Kashmiriyat in an acceptable framework in the larger freedom and political order”.

Recent developments

Those fighting for Kashmiri independence called the elections a sham. The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an association of 30 pro-independence and pro-Pakistan parties comprising Mujaheedeen, Al Qaeda and other oraganizations boycotted the elections to protest the lack of international oversight of the polling, and the absence of a referendum on self-determination. The group launched an anti-election campaign in which they urged Kashmiris to stay away from the polls.

Role of United States and United Nations

The United Nations Security Council first acknowledged the Jammu and Kashmir issue in 1948 and has continued to be an active participant in the resolution of the conflict. The United States increasingly focused its attention on this region of the world after 1998 when nuclear testing by both nations suddenly transformed the threat that the conflict posed into a very real, potentially catastrophic one. In 2002, nuclear-armed adversaries India and Pakistan mobilized for war over the long-disputed territory of Kashmir, sparking panic around the world. The conflict became a grave threat to South Asia .The United States government is now pursuing a much more active policy in the region, serving as a mediator in the conflict.


According to me, there are various measures which need to be taken to ensure free and impartial plebiscite:

i) Complete cease-fire: The two countries should announce the complete cease-fire along the Line of Control (LOC) to ensure that there is no untoward incident. The government of Pakistan should take militants into confidence. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq once said in an

interview that Hurriyat can convince militants on cease-fire and if Hurriyat can do that then I believe Pakistan government should not find it an impossible task.

ii) Demilitarization: After the cease-fire is ensured, India should call back its troops from Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK) and, simultaneously, Pakistan, too, should follow the suit by calling back its troops from Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK).

iii) Post Demilitarization: After the demilitarization, the UN security forces should occupy both sides of the divided Kashmir. The UN can ask for reinforcement from any member country (of course, except from India and Pakistan) to maintain law and order in the erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir and pave the way for an impartial and peaceful plebiscite. The observers of the United Nation should remain in Kashmir and should keep a close vigil on the scheme of things, and when the situation becomes conducive, the observers should go for referendum.

Since, people of Kashmir do not want the solution of Kashmir on ethnic or religious basis, therefore, the Pandits who left Kashmir in one of the most unfortunate incident in the history of Kashmir should be called back as an integral part of Kashmir’s culture and identity, they too would decide the future of Kashmir along with their Muslim brethren.  As mentioned in the United Nations Resolution 1514 (XV) of December 14, 1960, on the “Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples,” that all peoples have the right to self-determination, by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

The referendum, as already stated, should be held in two phases:

First Phase: – In the first phase people of Kashmir would vote between independence or Union. The referendum would be held under the aegis of the United Nations and one

representative each from India and Pakistan would monitor the democratic exercise. If the people of Kashmir vote for the Union, then second phase of voting becomes inevitable.

Second Phase: – In the second phase of voting, people of Kashmir would choose between Union with India and Union with Pakistan. Their ‘will’ must only decide with which country they want to associate their future.

However, both the countries should respect the consequences of the electoral verdict without being egoistical. If Kashmir decides to accede to Pakistan then Jammu and Ladakh will, by default, go to India and in case the Kashmiris favour India, even in that case Jammu and Ladakh will remain a part of India because there is apparently no dispute over Jammu or Ladakh between India and Pakistan. Therefore, there is no denying the fact that unlike the common belief, Kashmir can survive as an independent entity. If the people of Kashmir decide to be Independent, both India and Pakistan have to guarantee its Independence. For a start, Kashmir would not have its own currency but the currency of both India and Pakistan would be accepted as legal tender money. Kashmir, as an independent state, would have a free trade with both India and Pakistan and both the countries would invest in its economy. It is an admitted fact that only fruit and tourism industry, if properly managed, are enough to keep the economy of Kashmir afloat.

This paper explains the intricate mix of regional, ethnic, linguistic, religious, and caste communities that populate Kashmir, and emphasizes that a viable framework for peace must be adopted. The establishment of representative political structures in Indian Kashmir, and cross-border links between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir will improve the economy of Kashmir. I believe that “Kashmir” is a vital reading for anyone wishing to understand one of the world’s most dangerous conflicts.


1. Bartell Jeremy The War in Kashmir, the Pandits and Ladakhis

Fourth World Bulletin, Vol. 6

2. Bose Sumantra (2005), Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace, Harvard University


3. Ganguly Sumit (1997): The Crisis in Kashmir, Cambridge University Press

4. Srivastava Madhumita (2001): International Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict, A case

Study of Kashmir and Northern Ireland (New Delhi, Bhavana Book and Print)

5. V Schofield (1996): Kashmir

www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2004/rp04-028.pdf –

Source by Garima Dasgupta

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