Kashmir is the word that is pretty well known between Bharat (India) and Pakistan, but quite a few know what exactly the issue of Kashmir is. We will try to look deep into the issue as to what were the preludes to the Kashmir issue and what transpired thereafter. We also need to understand the colonial history of Bharat along with the political system of that time, because without understanding the political system of pre-1947, we cannot understand this issue thoroughly. We will also discuss the type of conflict that Bharat and Pakistan report in this 21st CE.
The polity of India and Kashmir before 1947.
It’s well known that the East India Company of Britain came to India as a trading company but over a period of time, it acquired a kind of political control. And over a period of 200 years, while they were deciding the fate of Bharat, India and its political scenario changed a lot. During the time of the colonial liberation of India, its political structure was divided into two types. 1) Princely States (Ruled by Monarchs or Kings) 2) British Provinces (Ruled by Governor General appointed by British Crown). Princely states were merely a facade because the ultimate control was in the hands of Britishers because no one was allowed to have their own armed forces except the approval of Britishers.
Kashmir was one of the princely states out of 17 odd princely states, it was ruled by a Hindu King but the majority of his subjects were Muslims. Similarly, there were many states where the King used to be a Muslim, and the majority of the subjects were Hindus like Junagarh, Hyderabad, etc. It is very important to look at the political map very carefully to understand the geo-strategic angle involved in the Kashmir issue.
Prelude to Partition and thereafter.
It is impossible to understand the basics of the Kashmir issue without having a little bit hang about the political events that led to the Kashmir conflict. Britishers were ruling India based on their divide and rule policy subjected to caste, creed, race, religion, gender, etc. They initiated groups like Congress and promoted Muslim League. Gave undue advantage to Muslim League to further their Communal demands all through the half of the 20th Century. Muslim League was adamant on its demand of Pakistan after 1940 and were inciting riots in Muslim Majority areas, then political environment became so charged with communalism and Subhash Chandra Bose made life uneasy for Britishers, so the situations were formed like that it was decided by all political entities like INC, Muslim League, and Britishers to go for partition of the country based on religion. Two countries were created based on religion. That those who are Muslims go to Pakistan and those who are non-Muslims go to India. But there was a real issue in that. India (Bharat) was not even political geography. There were patches of British provinces, Princely states, and moreover, there used to be a mix of religious demography lived in all these provinces and states.
Britishers used to play the carrot and stick game, they proposed independence of Princely states if they are handing over political power to Indians. But by 1947 in the Mountbatten plan, Britishers gave princely states to either go with Pakistan or India. All these princely states were given full freedom. Now, look at the logical error at the end of Britishers, how can any of the princely state that doesn’t share a boundary with Pakistan merge into Pakistan? That was the trump card that Britishers thought would be total confusion and chaos and we would interject and again gain political power, but history went differently.
Due to this, it was impossible to make a united country because it was a total mess and confusion of Princely states and British provinces. Had it not been for Patel, we wouldn’t have territorial integrity. We would be a scattered country like shown on the map and all the Princely states would be a different country altogether.
The onset of the Kashmir conflict
Since we have talked about Princely states and British provinces (see the map for better understanding), it was a very daunting task to convince all the princely states to merge with either Pakistan or India. On the Indian side, it was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel the first Home Minister of India started working. Gradually all the princely states choose either Pakistan or India except four (Junagarh, Goa, Hyderabad, and Kashmir). They were wanting to make an independent nation and there is a catch since the ruler of Kashmir was a Hindu King and the majority of his subjects were Muslims, Pakistan proposed Hari Singh (King of Kashmir) merge with Pakistan since most of the population was Muslim. Similar proposals were sent to Junagarh and Hyderabad at a later stage. And since the Muslim Kings of Junagarh and Hyderabad were fearing that if they can’t make their own nation, they would merge with Pakistan irrespective of the will of their Hindu subjects. Look at the map and how odd it would be if Hyderabad and Junagarh became part of Pakistan.
So, Pakistani Muslim tribals along with some Muslim soldiers attacked Kashmir on 20th August 1947 when Hari Singh rejected Pakistan’s proposal. Hari Singh had no Army the size of the attackers, many of his Muslim generals and soldiers defected to Muslim attackers and revealed the geography to ease the attack. Eventually, Hari Singh called Sardar Patel for help, finally, it was decided that Hari Singh would first sign the document of accession of Kashmir to India and then the Indian Army would be airlifted to Kashmir. And the accession document was signed on 27 October 1947 followed by sending the Indian Army to Kashmir to stop the invasion but Pakistani soldiers were able to capture all the green parts of Kashmir on the map given. On 27th October 1947, Kashmir became an integral part of Indian documents. Meanwhile, Gandhi was protesting fast unto death to force the government to give 55 crore rupees to Pakistan which was later used to fund the war against India in Kashmir. Indian Army stopped the attack and its advance for one month, then former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru announced a blunder of history on All India Radio on 20th November 1947, that they want resolution of the Kashmir issue with United Nations intervention United Nations Security Resolution (Kashmir). It was at this moment that the United Nation was involved in the Kashmir issue. Later Pakistani Army send multiple attacks on Kashmir from thereafter and all attacks were repelled. The wars of 1965 and 1999 between India and Pakistan were purely based on Kashmir because Pakistanis were confident that they would capture it but lost all wars conventionally. To stop continuous conflict, it was decided that a Line of Actual Control (LoC) would form so that both parties don’t have to be alert all the time. Pakistanis hold control of the area that they had captured in 1947 when they first attacked and the rest of the area was under Indian control that India acceded from Hari Singh (King of Kashmir).
Seeing, this attitude of Pakistan Home Minister Sardar Patel got cautious and doubted that, if the King of Junagarh and Hyderabad are not getting an option of getting their own country, then they would certainly join Pakistan and it would be a geographical blunder for India if they allow this now because there would be a physical Pakistan in middle of India. Hence, Sardar Patel decided to exercise the Army action and took control of Junagarh and Hyderabad in 1948 because both the Kings were ready to sign the accession document with Pakistan and India wouldn’t want this.
Today’s Kashmir Issue
Now that Pakistan had realized its strengths and weaknesses, it felt that it cannot win any kind of war with India based on conventional warfare, because the Indian economy is way larger than Pakistan and Money decide the fate of the war in the long term. So, they resorted to proxy warfare, where non-state actors (terror outfits) would inflict losses on the Indian establishment so they finally come to the table with some kind of proposals. There is a saying in Pakistan that “Bleed India with a thousand cuts.” Because Pakistan had lost all wars that they fought from 1947, 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999. They started radicalization among Muslims in Kashmir in the late 1980s. Its result was seen in the rape, murder, and pillage of Kashmiri Hindus on the 19th of January 1990. Nearly 5 Lakh Hindus were driven out of their homes, they became refugees within their own country and no government came to their support. Different terror organizations started to pop out like Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, etc. They all were sending militants to Kashmir with some local support, first, they targeted all non-Muslims, especially Hindus, and forced them out so as to change the demography and then ask for a referendum which was a way given by United Nations to solve the Kashmir problem. Then these militants started to attack security forces, they were having local support because radicalization was being done by many India controlled Kashmir origin organizations like JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front), Hurriyat Conference, PDP (main political parties), etc
Terror Groups in Kashmir
Whenever there is a terror attack happening in Kashmir, it becomes internationalized because then Pakistan can propagate that the Kashmir conflict is still there, world leaders and Organisations should come and interfere in this issue, so they can play their cards and propose their demands with India. Earlier when terror attacks in Kashmir were never answered with Military action from the Indian side and that is why they kept on happening. But since 2014 there has been a change in the attitude of the government. They have responded to terror attacks in Kashmir with Military actions inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. As a result of these same Military actions, Militant attacks have reduced exponentially. Recruitment of terrorists from Kashmir has nearly stopped and after the revocation of article 370 in Kashmir, the back-end support to terrorists from different political organizations has stopped completely, like JKLF, Hurriyat Conference, PDP, etc. And the situations would become completely normal as time would pass.
Why Kashmir is important to India
Kashmir has 3 important factors that India looks forward to securing. The first one is the territorial integrity of any Nation, which any nation would try to secure first. Secondly, if complete control is in India’s jurisdiction, then it would facilitate connectivity with the central Asian countries which are rich in Natural resources like Natural Gas, Uranium, etc. Apart from that India can overlook China from the Western side which today is not possible because of its geographical location. Thirdly many rivers traverse Kashmir which can be utilized to generate power because there is an immense number of valleys and gradients of water, which can be collected and can be used for irrigation, and consumption purposes as well.
Finally, in a nutshell, the issue between Pakistan and India is that Pakistan wanted Kashmir and they attacked it first while it was still under King Hari Singh so they had the right to it and since India approached Hari Singh at the later stage, they should drop their claim over Kashmir. The entire existence of Pakistan is based on Kashmir and hating India, this hate has caused their country to bifurcate into two, and the genesis of Bangladesh came into existence after the 1971 war where India captured 90,000 + Pakistanis in War. For India Kashmir problem is simple since King Hari Singh signed the accession documents with them first, therefore, they have full-fledged control over Kashmir.