DOSSIER. Kashmir has been a hotspot ever since the establishment of India and Pakistan in 1947. Sixty years have not proved enough to settle a dispute which involves religion, a strong pro-independence will and strategic calculations of both India and Pakistan.
Historic Kashmir, or the former princely state under the British Empire from 1846 to1947, is currently divided in three different states: India (teh state of Jammu & Kashmir); Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan or Northern Territories), and China (Aksai Chin). In some cases the whole territory is refereed as to Jammu & Kashmir.
The conflict dates back to 1947, the year in which India and Pakistan split up. India recognised the right of the princely state, which at the time was ruled by a Hindu Maharaja and had a majority of Muslim population, to choose between any of the two new countries. The Maharaja Hari Singh, who wanted to safeguard the country's independence and keep Jammu & Kashmir free from accession, finally had to ask India to intervene to face Muslim uprisings and drive out Pakistani guerrillas. As a result Hari Singh has no option but to sign an agreement with India known as Instrument of Accession. The accord grants Delhi control over most of Kashmir - Jammu & Kashmir- and lays the foundation for the holding of a rererendum for self-determination which would never take place.
The Instrument of Accession establishes de facto the division of Kashmir into three states. However, India and Pakistan did not accept the status quo, and so the first Indo-Pak war broke out in 1947 and ended in 1948. India got to stop the advance of Pakistani troops right in Srinagar, the capital of the princely state, and finally drove them out. Ambitions of both India and Pakistan had grown larger, though: India sought for control of all territories formerly governed by the Maharaja, whilst Pakistan wanted to gain control over the Muslim areas of Kashmir, which covered the whole princely state except for the region of Jammu.
That was the first out of four armed conflicts between both countries. There the Kashmiri question still stirs a great deal of tension. However, there is more than a simple dispute over a territory by two nuclear superpowers.
In 1989 the conflict acquired a domestic dimension as Kashmir pro-independence supporters raised against the Indian government. Till date, nationalist insurgency has carried out countless attacks on Indian police and military. In Kashmir there are people in favour of accession into Pakistan and a majority sector favouring full independence.
In Jammu & Kashmir, the Muslim pro-independence movement is headed by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of more than 20 civil and political parties backing self-determination and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. They believe a negotiated settlement can only be achieved through a self-determination plebiscite and an agreement between Pakistan, India and Kashmir under the auspices of the United Nations.
The most active armed organization in Kashmir is Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), which has been held responsible for several attacks against Indian civil population. Lashkar-e-Taiba has also been involved in armed attacks. It has its headquarters in Pakistan.
The role of religion
Religion is an important factor in Kashmir, as it serves the interests of Muslims backing the integration into Pakistan. The state of Jammu & Kashmir is the only state under Indian administration with a Muslim majority.
Prospects for peace
Ever since 2001 violence has declined in Jammu & Kashmir because of the peace process that started in 2004 between India and Pakistan. In spite of that the Kashmiri question is still a sensitive issue for both countries. New Delhi, for instance, is reluctant to include the matter for open discussions despite some recent progress. In the meantime, low intensity attacks by rebel groups are registered, and several human rights organizations have accused the Indian military of committing abuses against pro-independence militants.
You can gather further information on Kashmir at the BBC special reports, which include an analysis on possible conflict way outs, and at Alerta 2009 and Anuari 2009 de processos de pau dossiers issued by the Escola de Cultura de Pau in Catalonia. KashmirWatch.com offers updated information on the conflict, whereas Hurriyat Conference News publishes information on the main Kashmiri pro-independence political platform.
Pictures have been taken from Wikipedia.