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Conflict in Kashmir: A Long History

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By Heidi  Welte:

After conflict and bloodshed, life is slowly returning to normal for the people of Kashmir… for now, at least, but that hardly signals an end to the conflicts over control of Kashmir. This comes after two Pakistani soldiers were killed last week during clashes with Indian troops along their border. The Indian government claims they were simply conducting precision strikes in Kashmir to foil a terrorist attack, maintaining they were merely protecting their citizens. Pakistan, on the other hand, says no such incursions have taken place. Two weeks before, eighteen Indian soldiers were killed in an attack on an army base some 63 miles from the city of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan condemned the attack and the UN is urging restraint. Tensions are especially high since both nations possess nuclear weaponry. Conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has been going on since the end of World War II. This could simply be saber rattling with no real threat of war, but the nuclear statuses increase the perceived threat.

The people of Kashmir cannot and should not be expected to live in a state where there is a perpetual threat of war, and a conclusion cannot be reached without understanding the current conflict’s long history.

It began when WWII ended. Britain’s colonial possessions demanded that they, at long last, be able to govern their own nations as they saw fit. India’s resistance to British colonial rule was nothing new; the Sepoy rebellion began in 1857 and lasted for two years before the British were able to suppress it. During World War I, India agreed to support British war efforts in return for their independence once the war had ended; promises which were not acted upon once the war did end and were not forgotten when they were once again asked to support British war efforts during World War II. Britain found itself unable to hold onto its colonial possessions and India at last received their independence, but there was a problem. India is predominantly Hindu, with a large Muslim minority in what is now Pakistan and Kashmir. The minority was afraid of being mistreated by the Hindu majority and wanted to form their own nation. This was done and India was partitioned into two nations, India and Pakistan. The partitioning itself wrought much bloodshed and was the beginning of the conflict between the two nations over Kashmir.

Kashmir, like Pakistan, is predominately Muslim. Pakistan hoped that Kashmir would be a part of Pakistan, but India acquired the region in a questionable move. Pakistan once again wants control of Kashmir and India wants to keep what they acquired; neither party seems willing to compromise. UN peace talks have met little success, with Pakistan resorting to guerrilla-like tactics and India regarding these tactics as acts of terrorism. Troublingly, the people of Kashmir and the desire for their own nation have largely been ignored. When Kashmir rose up against the Indian government in 1989, the Indian military swiftly crushed the uprising. Citizens of this world have the right to self-determination and the right to govern themselves, and yet in many of these peace talks, the self-determination of the people of Kashmir has been largely ignored and overlooked. Unsurprisingly, a workable solution to bring lasting peace to the area has not yet been found, and cannot be found so long as the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination continues to be ignored. Seeking self-rule is nothing new to Kashmir. Since 1586, an outsider of some sort has been the ruler of Kashmir, beginning with the Mughal dynasty and continuing with today’s tug of war between Pakistan and India. Their desire for self-rule and self-determination will not be easily extinguished.

The partitioning of India brought the then unforeseen problems which we are still dealing with today and will be solving for some time to come. We must be mindful of the future consequences of today’s actions. For example, if Kashmir does get its independence and becomes a sovereign nation, it may solve the constant conflict between India and Pakistan and at long last, bring peace to the region. However, like the partitioning of India, it may also lead to further bloodshed and instability. Since no one can know what the future will hold, it is difficult to say what future ramifications today’s actions will have on the region. Therefore, a solution must be found while being mindful of future consequences without being frightened of them. It must also be acted upon with urgency, lest we have more incidents, such as the one on 29 September. We cannot idly stand by and watch saber rattling turn to war between two nations armed with weapons so terribly destructive.

Heidi Welte is an OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Navy Veteran.

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