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Kashmir - Background

A United Nations resolution, adopted after the 1948 war between India and Pakistan over disputed Kashmir, allows the people of Kashmir to join either India or Pakistan. The United Nations had urged both countries to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir allowing people choose which country they wanted to join with, but the plebiscite was never held.

The Kashmir dispute embodies Indo-Pakistani antagonism. The positions are clear-cut: India insists on maintaining the status quo, while Pakistan refuses to accept Indian jurisdiction and control. New Delhi regards Kashmir as an integral part of India while Islamabad insists that the dispute should be settled according to the terms of the resolution. Both countries reject total independence for Kashmir.

Initially, one could have described this dispute as a battle between Indian insistence on a secular approach and Pakistani guardianship of Muslim rights. However, Hindu-Muslim religious rivalry and the debates surrounding the original partition of India have ceased to be the focal point of this dispute. Over time, the ability of competing politicians in both countries to exploit this issue for political gain has eclipsed the secular-religious debate.

The concept of partition is anathema to Indians. Kashmir's symbolism to India is as critical a consideration as any security significance associated with this fragment of ice and rock threaded by a beautiful valley. India is unwilling to lose even one additional hectare of this land. New Delhi is also concerned that Kashmiri autonomy would set a precedent for breakaway movements in other Indian states (e.g., Punjab or Assam). To Pakistan, Kashmir is symbolic of its national ethos and commitment to protect Muslim interests against Indian encroachment. It believes that the creation of a separate, strongly sectarian nation is incomplete without contiguous Kashmir. Kashmir, in brief, symbolizes the enmity that Hindus and Muslims harbor for one another. Ironically, the fact that India and Pakistan are de facto nuclear powers may help to dampen the fire underlying this issue because a fourth Indo-Pakistani war could entail a nuclear exchange.

The most likely scenario for conflict between India and Pakistan would stem from the continuing unrest in Kashmir. It is difficult to imagine how India and Pakistan could settle this dispute in a mutually satisfactory manner. India's position is clear and transcends political debate. Any arrangement that cedes portions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (the only majority Muslim state in India) to Pakistan is not acceptable. Pakistan, on the other hand, insists on the right to protect Muslims living in Kashmir; consequently, its support for Kashmiri militants continues.

In 1952 the elected and overwhelmingly Muslim Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, led by the popular Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, voted in favor of confirming accession to India. Thereafter, India regarded this vote as an adequate expression of popular will and demurred on holding a plebiscite. After 1953 Jammu and Kashmir was identified as standing for the secular, pluralistic, and democratic principles of the Indian polity. Nehru refused to discuss the subject bilaterally until 1963, when India, under pressure from the United States and Britain, engaged in six rounds of secret talks with Pakistan on "Kashmir and other related issues." These negotiations failed, as did the 1964 attempt at mediation made by Abdullah, who recently had been released from a long detention by the Indian government because of his objections to Indian control. Pakistan has continueed its quest for J&K, the only Muslim majority state in India.

Since 1990, the Kashmir insurgency, concentrated in the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, has gained momentum. By the mid-1990s, it was not only the most serious flashpoint in the region but also among the most likely accelerants for a nuclear crisis anywhere on the globe. Thus, an internally driven crisis evolved into a regional security threat that also provides a political rallying point, particularly among nationalist groups who favor a more overt program of nuclear weapons acquisition.

Although the origins of the crisis are quintessentially indigenous, there is widespread agreement among both Indian and foreign observers that the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency of Pakistan had actively aided and abetted some of the insurgent groups, most notably, the radical Islamic Hezb-ul-Mujahideen. It was the ISI's practice to use and discard militant organizations in Kashmir. The Pak army first used Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to start terrorist activities in Kashmir and then dropped it in favor of pro-Pakistan fundamentalist groups. Then many of these groups were discarded and more and more Pakistani and Afghan terrorists inducted.

Kasmir's demographics illustrate the complexity of the issue. The territory can be divided into three regions -- Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh -- each of which is dominated by a different ethnic group. Jammu is inhabited mainly by a Hindu majority, the Kashmir Valley is settled by a Muslim majority, and a Buddhist majority resides in Ladakh. While there is an identifiable Kashmiri ethnicity, the three groups are ethnically distinct, complicating any notion of "Kashmiri nationalism." The implications of these divisions have to be acknowledged whenever the call arises for an independent Kashmir, determined by plebiscite and with its future tied to neither India nor Pakistan.

The Kashmir crisis compelled both governments to expend enormous sums to support the deployment of forces in this region. The costs to both India and Pakistan of the Siachen Glacier deployment alone were estimated at more than $1 million a day, amounting to more than $5 billion since the sporadic fighting on the glacier began in 1984.

As of 1997 more than 350,000 Indian soldiers were deployed throughout Kashmir, a portion of them occupying the Indian side of the Siachen Glacier in the far northeastern region of Kashmir in the eastern Karakoram Mountains. Their Pakistani counterparts were dug in seven miles away on the Baltoro Glacier. At nearly 18,000 feet above sea level, howitzer shells are lobbed back and forth, out of sight and hearing of the rest of the world. Popular interest in this decades-old stalemate seems as thin as the atmosphere, yet scores of deaths a week (most resulting from harsh conditions) are attributed to the continuing conflict.

The counterinsurgency strategy that the Indian government adopted in Jammu and Kashmir was developed in the context of dealing with guerrilla movements in India's northeast in the late 1970s. This strategy involves denying the guerrillas any sanctuaries, sealing the porous Indo-Pakistani border, and using both army and paramilitary forces to conduct house-to-house "cordon-and-search" operations. Whether this strategy will lead eventually to the collapse of the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir remains an open question; violence has continued to accelerate since 1993, with mounting casualties on both sides and the destruction of an ancient mosque and shrine in 1995.

Jammu and Kashmir was a target of externally sponsored religion-based terrorism. The aim is to divide people on the basis of sectarian affiliation and undermine the secular fabric and territorial integrity of India. Kashmiri militant groups have committed serious abuses, including the deliberate targeting of Kashmir Hindus by fundamentalists, terrorist groups and foreign mercenaries. The persecution by Muslim extremists of the Hindu minority and the systematic religion-based extremism of terrorist elements has resulted in the exodus of 250,000 members of the Hindu and other minorities from the Kashmir Valley to other parts of India. Fundamentalists and terrorists have also targeted and assassinated Muslim intellectuals and liberal Muslim leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. As a consequence, as many as 50,000 Muslims have also been compelled to flee the Valley to seek safety in other parts of India.

In addition to political killings and kidnapings of politicians and civilians, terrorists engaged in extortion and carried out acts of random terror that killed hundreds of Kashmiris. Terrorist acts by Kashmiri groups have also taken place outside Jammu and Kashmir. Many of the terrorists are not Indian citizens, but are of Afghan, Pakistani and other nationalities. Militants in Jammu and Kashmir continue to use kidnapings to sow terror, seek the release of detained comrades, and extort funds.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the judicial system barely functions due to threats by militants against judges, witnesses, and their family members, because of judicial tolerance of the Government's heavy-handed antimilitant actions, and the frequent refusal by security forces to obey court orders. In April 2003 India and Pakistan began a series of steps to ease border tensions that had pushed them to the brink of another war over the mountain territory of Kashmir. In the following months, India and Pakistan restored full diplomatic relations and resumed road, rail and air links. The two rival nations observed a cease-fire in divided Kashmir. Pakistan and India observed a ceasefire along the working boundary, Line of Control and the Line of Actual Contact in Siachin Sector from the midnight November 25-26, 2003.

In January 2004 the prime ministers of India and Pakistan have held a much-hoped-for bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit. Officials described the half-hour surprise meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan's Zafarulaah Jamali as a courtesy call. The prime ministers exchanged views on recent steps their countries have taken to improve usually tense relations.

Violence declined in the region since peace talks began in 2004, and both sides vowed to persevere with efforts to solve their dispute over the Himalayan territory. Despite relaxation of tension between India and Pakistan, both countries seem unmoved over their stand on the disputed issue of Kashmir.

The cease-fire largely held until early August 2013 when skirmishes broke out over the killing of five Indian soldiers in a remote district of Kashmir. Pakistan denied allegations its forces were responsible. Officials in both countries accused each other of cease-fire violations since then, raising tensions that some worry could derail efforts to resume stalled wide-ranging peace talks.

According to the Indian Government, the numbers of infiltration attempts had doubled in 2013 in comparison to the corresponding period (1 Jan- 5 Aug) of 2012. There had also been 57 Cease Fire Violations as of 05 august 2013, which was 80% more than the violations during the same corresponding period in 2012. The Indian Army successfully eliminated 19 hardcore terrorists in the months of July and August along the Line of Control and in the hinterland in J&K. The effective counter infiltration grid on the Line of Control ensured that 17 infiltration bids were foiled in 2013.

In August 2013 members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit in Pakistan, the group blamed for the 2008 commando-style raid on Mumbai that killed 166 people, told Reuters they were preparing to take the fight to India once again, this time across the region.

A ceasefire has been in force with Pakistan since the midnight of 25th November, 2003 along the international border (IB), Line of Control (LoC) and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL). According to the US National Counter Terrorism Center [NCTC], in 2004 there were a total of 284 attacks in Kashmir that met the statutory criteria for significant terrorist incidents. In early 2005 India and Pakistan launched a landmark bus service across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, allowing families divided by the Line to be reunited for the first time in nearly 60 years.

October of 2005 brought increased tension and disaster to Kashmir. On 8 October, 2005 a massive earthquake rocked the region causing enormous devastation including the deaths of tens of thousands of Kashmiri residents and the displacement of even greater numbers of the populace. The humanitarian crisis that ensued provided both Pakistan and India reasons to soften their policies slightly in the region in order to allow displaced people greater movement through the “line of control” and the movement of aid personnel and equipment to remote areas.

On 29 October, 2005 a coordinated bombing attack by suspected Pakistani based terrorist group fighting Indian rule of Kashmir threatened to derail peace efforts. It was believed the bombing was carried out by Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) possibly in conjunction with the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). While LET was banned by the Pakistani government, India has consistently accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to their activities. The three bombings were conducted within 30 minutes of each other in Delhi, resulting in the deaths of more than 60 people and the wounding of 200 others. The attacks were meant to threaten peace attempts between Pakistani President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Singh, however, the overwhelming destruction and need to bring aid to the earthquake stricken region overshadowed tensions caused by the bombing.

In June of 2006 President Musharraf of Pakistan announced a series of alternatives that could provide a solution to the Kashmir issue. His idea revolved loosely around the concept of a self-governance system for Kashmir with the inclusion of a period of joint management of the region by Pakistan, India and the Kashmiri’s. This announcement by Musharraf was received by India with slight annoyance because it was purveyed through media covered interview sessions with the Pakistani president rather than closed door meetings with Indian officials.

On July 11th, 2006, a series of bombings aboard passenger trains during commuting hours in Mumbai, India, threatened to further destabilize peace efforts in Kashmir between Pakistan and India. The coordinated bombings which cost the lives of more than 200 Indian civilians and the wounding of another 700, again brought to he surface Pakistan’s inability to control terrorist groups within its own territory. It was believed the attack was jointly conducted by LET and the SIMI.

On 5 December 2006, President Musharraf, in an interview with India's NDTV, said that Pakistan would withdraw troops and guarantee self-governance for Kashmiris if India accepted his peace proposals. The Indian Foreign Ministry responded by saying that it could agree as long as the borders were rendered "irrelevant." The response among was generally positive but cautious because India and Pakistan have been in negotiations on-and-off for years that have yet to come to a conclusion.

Since 2006, India and Pakistan have continued to take part in the Composite Dialogue process in an effort to maintain the peace process and strengthen bilateral relations. Following Pakistani elections in February 2008 the Indian Minister of External Affairs and the Indian Foreign Secretary met with their new counterparts to advance the Composite Dialogue talks, reaffirming a commitment to maintain the ceasefire along the Line-of-Control as well as increasing people-to-people connections through improving cross-border bus services. The July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul and the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008 increased tensions between India and Pakistan. Although Prime Minister Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani agreed to resume talks following the 2010 SAARC summit, India continued to insist that Pakistan must do its part to dismantle terror networks operating from its territory and prosecute those who had a hand in planning the Mumbai attacks.

India reported that there were 93 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control Sector in J&K in 2012. This includes violations in the Uri, Poonch and Rajouri Sectors. One Indian soldier was killed and six were injured in cross LoC firing in the year 2012. In 2012, Indian sources continued to attribute violence and deaths in Jammu and Kashmir to transnational terrorist groups it alleges are backed by Pakistan. India and Pakistan attempted to decrease tensions in their bilateral relationship by increasing official dialogue between their two governments, lessening trade restrictions, and relaxing some visa requirements in 2012. Continued allegations of violations of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan (the border along Jammu and Kashmir), however, and Indian concerns about Pakistani-based terrorist groups remained impediments to normalizing relations.

The January 2013 clashes between the nuclear-armed neighbors were the worst outbreak of violence in Kashmir since a cease-fire took effect in 2003. India accused Pakistani troops of killing two Indian soldiers in a cross-border attack. Indian officials said the bodies of the two soldiers were subject to "barbaric and inhuman mutilation," and that one of them was beheaded. Pakistan claimed Indian troops crossed the border and raided a Pakistani military post, killing a Pakistani soldier. Pakistan's military said a Pakistani soldier was killed by "unprovoked firing" on a Pakistani military post in the Hotspring sector. A military spokesman said the attack was the 10th ceasefire violation by India so far this year.

Narendra Modi came to power in India's 2014 general elections with a vow to push the envelope and deter the jihadist threat from Pakistan through forceful means. Unlike his predecessors, the Indian prime minister wore nationalism on his sleeve and had the propensity to take calculated risks for national security.

At least nine Pakistani and eight Indian civilians were killed by cross-border shelling in Kashmir during the first week of October 2014, in the heaviest fighting between the two countries in a decade. There had been intermittent exchanges of fire across the LOC since 2008, but none as serious as these. Over 30,000 people on both sides fled their homes. Dismissing war as an option, Pakistan on 10 October 2014 called for immediate diffusion of tensions. "Both countries are aware of each other's capabilities and war was not an option, Pakistan clarified.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said 10 October 2014 Pakistan has been taught a "befitting lesson" with the Army "shutting their mouth" after guns fell silent along the International border and Line of Control in Kashmir after nine days of heavy exchange of mortar shelling and gunfire. Defense Minister Arun Jaitley warned Pakistan that India will make the cost of its “adventurism….unaffordable,” while Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he wants Pakistan to understand “the reality that times have changed in India.”

Pakistan had worked to impart Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) a semblance of self-governance and held elections there in 2015. Indian government, however, described the elections as an attempt to "camouflage its forcible and illegal occupation" of the regions which were an integral part of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi by referring to Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan in his August 2016 Independence Day speech sought to rid India of its seeming diffidence in dealing with the Kashmir issue. His decision to raise the stakes on Kashmir by highlighting Pakistan's own failings in G-B and Balochistan was well received in India's strategic community. PM Modi's comments about goodwill for India in Balochistan and G-B, which were not backed by any substantive outreach to Kashmir, followed a slew of provocative remarks from Pakistan, not least the one by its high commissioner Abdul Basit dedicating Pakistan's Independence Day to freedom of Kashmiris. Of particular significance was Modi's reference to Balochistan as India is now effectively speaking Pakistan's language in suggesting at least moral and political support for Baloch separatistsm.

The troubled Himalayan region was hit by some of the most serious anti-India protests in recent years. On 08 July 2016, the popular 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen guerrilla leader, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, who had evaded capture for six years, died fighting Indian troops. The killing of the popular rebel leader triggered protests that left more than 80 people dead and thousands wounded, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets to quell the demonstrations.

Terrorist attacks on India were launched at Poonch and Uri on 11 and 18th of September respectively. Almost 20 Pakistani infiltration attempts had been foiled by the Indian army successfully during 2016. Jaish –e- Mohammed masterminded the heavily armed group which attacked the Pathankot Indian Air Force Station on 02 January 2016, killing six Indian security personnel. Pakistani troops along Line of Control (LoC) resorted to unprovoked firing and mortar shelling at various places in Poonch district from time to time since 14 August 2016. Seven militants and a cop were killed in three separate encounters in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district 11 September 2016 while two different gunfights also broke out in Poonch district of Jammu region. The Indian Army claimed to have foiled three infiltration bids. India's Uri Brigade was attacked by four Jaish-e-Mohammad fidayeen on September 18, leaving 19 soldiers dead and 24 injured. The Uri attack came as 10 Dogra Regiment was in the process of moving out with the 6th Battalion of the Bihar Regiment replacing it.

India’s army launched “surgical strikes” 29 September 2016 against suspected militants along the border with Pakistan, while Islamabad rejected the claim, calling it an incident of cross-border firing. The strikes came after an earlier militant attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers and which Prime Minister Narendra Modi said would not go unpunished. India’s Director General of Military Operations, Ranbir Singh, told a news conference that the strikes were carried out to thwart terrorist teams positioned on launch pads along the disputed Kashmir border. He said that significant casualties were caused to “these terrorists and those who try to support them”.

Modi ordered 25 commandos of the Indian Army to cross over the Line of Control (LoC) into Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Through stealth and surprise, the intruders went three kilometers inside Pakistani territory and destroyed seven terrorist camps, killing approximately 50 jihadists, and then slipped back into India. Pakistan denied that these 'surgical strikes' had any impact and downplayed the whole episode as an Indian 'illusion'. Admitting these strikes would amount to Islamabad acknowledging the presence of jihadists on its soil and also conceding a major military failure. The scale of these operations was unprecedented in peacetime and conveyed a message from India that it had a bold political leadership willing to take the battle into the adversary's zone.

On September 27, 2016 India conveyed to current SAARC Chair Nepal that "increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of Member States by one country have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016." Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka pulled out of the SAARC summit. Afghanistan and Bangladesh also blame Pakistan for supporting terror groups. Host country Pakistan itself postponed the summit, in wake of heightened tensions with India.

Under the 1960 World Bank-mediated Indus Waters Treaty [IWT] between India and Pakistan, Pakistan received exclusive use of waters from the Indus and its westward flowing tributaries, the Jhelum and Chenab, while the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej rivers were allocated for India’s use. "Blood and water can't flow at the same time," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on 26 September 2016 during a meeting to review the Indus Water treaty. It was decided that India will "exploit to the maximum" the water of Pakistan-controlled rivers, including Jhelum, as per the water-sharing pact.

While the 2016 surgical strikes did not deter Pakistan-sponsored jihadist extremism against India, it signaled that Modi would go further than previous Indian prime ministers with the motto of 'counterattack is the best defence', while limiting the targets of Indian retaliation to the 'irregular' jihadis and their infrastructure rather than engaging Pakistan's formal military and its installations in frontal combat.

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Page last modified: 05-03-2019 18:32:56 ZULU