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Historical Perspective on the Kashmir Crisis
Tipu Salman Makhdoom
Advocate High Court,
Partner, Jus & Laye,
JURIST Pakistan Correspondent

Muslims ruled Kashmir for about five hundred years before it was annexed to the Sikh Kingdom of the Punjab in 1819. In 1846, the ruler of Punjab lost a major battle against the British and consequently a part of his territory, including the state of Kashmir, was annexed to the British Indian Empire. In the same year, Maharaja Gulab Singh, the Governor of Kashmir under the defeated Kingdom of Punjab, literally bought Kashmir from the British, by the treaties of Lahore and Amritsar, for a sum of 7.5 million rupees.

Kashmir was given the special status of "Princely State" under the British raj - although it was formally part of British Indian Empire, its prince was given much control over its internal affairs. As a result, the Kashmiri people were denied certain rights which the British allowed to their Indian subjects.

Elections were held in Kashmir in 1947, before partition of the sub-continent, in which a political party called the Muslim Conference won all the seats and decided to join Pakistan. Per the Independence Plan of 3rd June, 1947, however, the rulers of the Princely States of united India, including Kashmir, were given a choice to join either Pakistan or India or, under certain conditions, to remain independent. Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Kashmir at the time of partition, tried to adopt this third course although it seemed to be against the will of the majority of his people. He offered to sign a stand-still "status quo" agreement with both countries. While India did not respond to this offer, Pakistan accepted it. Frustrated by the Maharaja's delay and disinclination to join Pakistan, the majority Muslims of Kashmir rose in revolt along the western borders of the state and the Pashtun tribesmen of the surrounding area joined in with them. With the Maharaja losing control over his state, he signed an Instrument of Accession to the Indian Union in October 1947.

On 27th of October, 1947, the Indian army entered Kashmir. Pakistan responded, and localized warfare between India and Pakistan continued during 1948. India took the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council, and the war ended in a cease-fire, which took effect in January 1949. In July of that year, India and Pakistan defined a cease-fire line, the still-existing Line of Control, which divided Kashmir between Indian held "Occupied Kashmir" and Pakistan held "Azad (free) Kashmir", as they are known in Pakistan (since Pakistani-held Kashmir has its own independent Constitution and legislature and its independent President and Prime Minister, although practically it is substantially governed by the Pakistan Government).

Pakistan had always demanded a free and fair plebiscite in Kashmir, so that the Kashmiri people might decide their own political future. This demand has been deemed just and fair both by the UN and India. India indeed promised a free and fair plebiscite in Kashmir, soon after it took the issue to UN in 1948.

On 21st April, 1948, by a unanimously-passed Resolution, the Security Council appointed a UN Commission for Indo-Pakistan for the purposes of helping organize a Kashmir plebiscite. This UN Commission passed its first Resolution on 13th August, 1948 according to which the cease-fire took place. The second of its Resolutions was passed on 5th January, 1949 which chalked out the details regarding a plebiscite to be held in Jammu and Kashmir regarding its accession either to India or Pakistan. India, however, never let the plebiscite in Kashmir occur. Pakistan raised the matter in UN again and again but nothing material happened because of use of veto by the Soviet Union, then allied with India.

Many proposals were subsequently made to end the dispute over Kashmir, but to no avail. In 1962, China took over the northeastern part of the Ladakh portion of Kashmir state from India. This further aggravated tensions between India and Pakistan, and war broke out between India and Pakistan in 1965. A cease-fire was established in September, followed by an agreement signed by the two sides at Tashkent (Uzbekistan) in early January 1966, in which they resolved to try to end the dispute by peaceful means.

The Kashmir issue remained alive, however, and fighting again flared up between the two sides in 1971 as part of the India-Pakistan war that ultimately resulted in the creation of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). An accord was signed in the Indian city of Simla in 1972. The Simla Accord once again expressed the hope that henceforth the countries in the region would be able to live in peace with each other and would try to solve all their disputes amicably. But the Kashmir issue has never been resolved through negotiations.

Since the 1980s a serious armed uprising has been taking place within Indian-held Kashmir. This uprising is supported by many religious groups in Pakistan. India claims that there is really no uprising, and that in fact armed personnel are being infiltrated into Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistani-held Kashmir and are causing all the disturbance in the State. India call this "cross-border terrorism" and demands that Pakistan stop the infiltration of Muslim insurgents into Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistan, on the other hand, maintains that India has forcibly held Kashmir under its occupation with the 700,000 soldiers it now has in the State. Moreover, it asserts that Indian forces are committing serious humans rights violations in Kashmir and India is not allowing Kashmiris their fundamental right of plebiscite. Pakistan demands that India and Pakistan should negotiate on Kashmir as per UN resolutions, while India holds that the administration of Kashmir is an internal matter, between the Kashmiri people and the Indian Government, and Pakistan has no right to interfere.

Kashmir has been the main bone of contention between India and Pakistan since their inception. Serious efforts to resolve the Kashmir problem have been made by certain leaders of both the countries at different times, but it seems like having the problem has been more advantageous to the rulers of both countries than truly solving it.

June 7, 2002

Tipu Salman Makhdoom is a partner with Jus & Laye in Lahore, Pakistan, and is JURIST's Pakistan Correspondent.

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