India and Pakistan have been arguing over Kashmir for over 70 years. This summer, the conflict flared up again.
- What is the Kashmir conflict about?
- Who is involved?
- Why has the conflict lasted so long?
- Is there a solution?
In August 2019, the protracted conflict over Kashmir took a new turn. The Indian parliament repealed the special law that had given Kashmir extended autonomy. At the same time, India introduced further state of emergency for the state, including the mobile network and internet were closed for several months. India is accused of gross human rights violations, and neighboring Pakistan had Kashmir discussed in the UN Security Council . Kashmir was discussed there already 40 years ago – and the conflict has been going on even longer.
Kashmir is a former principality west of the Himalayas. It consists of inaccessible mountain areas and fertile valleys. In 1947, when the colony of British India became the two independent republics of India and Pakistan, a country located in Asia according to DIRECTORYAAH, the prince was allowed to choose which country he wanted to belong to. As the only one of the more than 500 princes in the area that made up British India , Maharaja Hari Singh in Kashmir had to choose because his empire bordered on both of the new republics. But he wanted to be independent. As a result, Kashmir was invaded by the Pakistani side, which led to the Indians also intervening. After a brief war, Kashmir was divided into two: About a third were controlled by Pakistan and the rest by India. Despite a new war in 1965, the border has not changed significantly since then.
The original principality was a linguistic and cultural patchwork quilt. The majority of the population were Sunni Muslims, but in addition there were many Shia Muslims, Hindus of various castes, Sikhs and Tibetan Buddhists. Not least, religious life was characterized by mixed forms ( syncretism ) and an openness to other religious traditions.
The part now controlled by Pakistan is mainly Sunni Muslim and linguistically closely related to languages in Pakistan. The people there want closer ties to Pakistan rather than reunification. The conflict is not about this area either, but about the area that India controls.
The Indian part was organized as a state called Jammu and Kashmir and incorporated into the Indian Union. At the same time, a clause was introduced in the Indian Constitution , Article 370, which gave Jammu and Kashmir more autonomy than other Indian states. It is this article that is the core of the dispute and which the government removed in August 2019. In addition, Jammu and Kashmir were reduced from state to union territory.
Part of the state was separated as its own territory, Ladakh. This is a mountainous area inhabited by Buddhists with close historical and religious ties to Tibet . Ladakh has a population of just over half a million.
The rest are still named Jammu and Kashmir. Around 12 million people live here. The difference from state to union territory is that Jammu and Kashmir now have less autonomy than other states. They have lost control of the police and a law banning non-Kashmiris from owning property in the state.
3: What is the conflict about?
Both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, and both parties perceive the other party’s part of the area as occupied.
For both India and Pakistan, Kashmir is a symbol-heavy part of the self-image. Seen from Pakistan, the Kashmiris are a Muslim Brotherhood and Kashmir is rightfully theirs (the K in the name Pakistan should represent Kashmir). This was the only area with a Muslim majority that did not join when Pakistan was established as a Muslim homeland in 1947. Over the years, Kashmir has become an important symbol in the effort to maintain a Pakistani identity, especially for conservative forces.
Kashmir is not rich in resources. Some rivers are dammed and provide electric power, there is some tourism and a few sacred places. More importantly, Kashmir is strategically located in the transition between South Asia and China.
Most of all, both countries see themselves as heirs to religious and political traditions dating back to the great Mughal Empire (1500-1800s), where Kashmir played an important role. For the Mughals, Kashmir was a paradise, with comfortable summer temperatures and beautiful lakes and mountains. Here they laid out their most beautiful gardens. From here also came learned and holy men who are still famous and highly regarded, both in Pakistan and India. For many, the beautiful Kashmir Valley is also the very image of exalted peace. It has been used as a romantic backdrop in countless Bollywood movies.
And precisely because the majority are Muslims, Indian authorities consider Kashmir an important part of their secular (secular) and tolerant heritage. India has always boasted that there are almost as many Muslims living in India as in Pakistan.
In recent decades, Hindu nationalists in India have become stronger. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi won the election in 2014 and again in 2019 and have the majority in the Indian Parliament. That is how they could repeal the special law for Kashmir. Hindu nationalists perceived the special law as a slap in the face to Muslim voters and an expression of disrespect for India’s Hindu heritage. They called their opponents “pseudo-secular”, meaning cheating secular, and thought they paid more attention to minorities than to the majority.
There is a core of truth in this, as the Congress Party has long based its support on an alliance of Muslims, low-caste Hindus and high-caste Hindus . Laws that safeguarded Muslim interests were easily the target of Hindu nationalist criticism, including the special law for Kashmir.
In addition, Pakistan is an archenemy and a popular target. Terrorist attacks in India often originate in Pakistan and have received support from extremists there. There are similar attitudes in Pakistan, where otherwise popular Bollywood movies are banned from TV stations and cinemas because of Kashmir.
4: In the valley
In the Indian part, the religious groups fundamentally disagree about Kashmir’s future. The Hindus in Jammu want integration in the Indian Union, while among the Muslims in the Kashmir Valley, opposition to Delhi is stronger than before.
In the first decades after 1947, the Kashmiris experienced economic improvement, the rule of law, and relatively democratic conditions. Kashmir under the Maharaja had been very underdeveloped. Kashmir received the most transfers per person from Delhi, and very many young Kashmiris have received higher education at Indian universities. The trade took place mainly with the rest of India. Tourism was a significant source of income.