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The articles in this issue have been divided up into the following categories







The Crisis in Kashmir

Why the squabble over Kashmir?

Kashmir, or the state of Jammu and Kashmir to give it its full title, has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan since Partition in 1947, when British India was divided into two states, one of which – Pakistan – was created to provide a home for India’s Muslim population. More than 60% of Kashmir’s 12 million people are Muslim, but the Hindu prince who ruled Kashmir at the time nonetheless ceded it to India. It is now the only Muslim majority state in India.

Why did Kashmir have a Hindu ruler?

Kashmir had been under Muslim rule for three centuries when it was annexed in 1789 by the Sikh chieftain Ranjit Singh. Then, in the mid-19th century, after the Sikhs had lost two wars to the British, they offered up Kashmir in lieu of war reparations. The British promptly sold the state for seven and a half million rupees to the Hindu Raja of neighbouring Ladakh and Jammu. Srinagar, the state’s capital, became a summer resort for Britons wishing to escape the heat of the plains and indulge in a little hunting and fishing.

What did the maharaja do at the time of Independence?

The princes of the princely states – 600 princedoms covering about a third of the subcontinent – were in theory allowed to choose which country to join. In practice, most simply signed up with the country to which they were geographically closest. But Kashmir adjoined both Pakistan and India, and in August 1947 its playboy Maharaja, Hari Singh, was still undecided. He seemed to prefer the idea of Kashmir standing alone as a neutral “Switzerland of Asia”. In the weeks after Partition, Muslim farm workers – aided by Pathans from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province and supported by sections of the Pakistani government – rose up against their Hindu landlords. This ragtag army advanced towards Srinagar, murdering, raping and looting wherever they went. The Maharaja fled and the new Indian government led by Jawarhalal Nehru, himself a Kashmiri Hindu by descent, sent troops into Kashmir to put down the revolt, prompting Hari Singh to sign the instrument of accession which handed Kashmir to India.

Most of the state came under Indian control, although the remote north-western third around Gilgit known as Free Kashmir became part of Pakistan. In January 1949 a UN-brokered ceasefire came into effect establishing what became known s “the line of control” and the presence of international peacekeepers who have been there ever since. The two countries went to war over Kashmir in 1965-66, and clashed again in the 1971 war which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh out of what was once East Pakistan. In 1972 India and Pakistan consented, under the Simla Agreement, to negotiate over Kashmir’s future, but no progress has been made since then, Hari Singh, meanwhile, died in exile in Delhi in 1961 after squandering his last years indulging a fondness for drink, tobacco and horses.

Have Kashmiris ever been asked what they want?

No. One of the UN’s key conditions in 1949 was that a referendum should be held in the state, and Nehru was quick to declare that Kashmir’s fate would be decided by its people – but no referendum has taken place.

How have the Kashmiris reacted?

As a result, dozens of militant Muslim groups have sprung up, some wanting independence, others to join Pakistan. The latter were encouraged by Pakistan, which set up training camps and gave the militants some of the huge weapons surplus left over from the Afghan war against the Soviets. Ever since then, both armies have been shelling each other relentlessly across the line of control and Kashmir itself has been racked by violence perpetrated by separatists and by the 600,000-strong Indian security forces. Around 20,000 people have lost their lives. What began as a nationalist uprising has effectively become a terrorist struggle in which outsiders – mainly Pakistani and Afghans – have become heavily involved.

Would most Kashmiris favour joining Pakistan?

Most pundits believe that the majority of Kashmiri Muslims have no desire to join Pakistan, which they resent for turning a nationalist rebellion into a religious crusade. Instead they would probably settle for peace within India if the near-total autonomy that existed in the immediate post-independence years were to be restored.

Why is a settlement so elusive?

Because for both countries Kashmir has become a touchstone of national virility. It would be political suicide for Pakistan’s General Musharraf to be seen to go soft on the issue, since it is the one subject that unites his country. Politicians in Delhi, on the other hand are terrified that the loss of Kashmir would fuel semi-dormant secessionist movements across the country.

Does the West really need to worry about Kashmir?

It is no coincidence that the Kashmir issue has blown up again now that the Americans are getting the better of the war in Afghanistan. Kashmir is not separate from the war against terrorism, it’s part of it – a place where Muslim extremist groups, many of them sympathetic to al-Qa’eda and many with their numbers probably swelled by Taliban remnants, see a chance to make mayhem. If the West is serious about waging war against terrorism, it cannot afford to ignore Kashmir.

From The Week 12.1.02

24 May 2002

His Excellency Mr Ronen Sen
Indian High Commissioner
High Commission of India

Dear Your Excellency

I am writing to express our deep sympathy with India’s suffering at the hands of Pakistani terrorism concerning Kashmir.
Kashmir is an integral part of India and does not belong exclusively to the people who happen to be living in it, even if there is a Moslem majority in that province. There are more Moslems in India than there are in Pakistan and it is unthinkable that wherever they may happen to be in the majority, they can ask to secede from Mother India. The Late Mahatma Gandhi failed to keep India intact and this is the result.

Pakistan commits terrorism against India and then asks to negotiate regarding Kashmir. Diplomacy cannot be the servant of terrorism. Your suffering is similar to Israel’s problem and to the problems of other peace-loving countries.

With best wishes for a speedy and favourable outcome of your dilemma.

Yours sincerely

Naim Dangoor

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