Nation profile


General information
Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh: 12,541,302 (2011); Azad Kashmir: 4,095,366 (2017); Gilgit-Baltistan: 1,800,000 (2015); Aksai Chin and Transkarakoram: almost uninhabited
230,699 km2 (Jammu and Kashmir: 42,241; Ladakh, 59,146; Azad Kashmir: 13,297; Gilgit-Baltistan: 72,971; Aksai Chin: 37,244; Transkarakoram: 5,800)
Government and Assembly of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and autonomous districts of Leh and Kargil, in the Union Territory of Ladakh (India). Government and Assemblies of the territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan).
Major cities
Srinagar, Jammu, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit, Leh
State administration
India, Pakistan and China
Territorial languages
Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri, Pahari, Mirpuri, Gojri, Hindko, others
Official languages
Hindi and English (India), Urdu (Pakistan), Chinese and Uighur (China)
Major religion
Islam (Sunni, Shia and Ismaili), Hinduism, Buddhism

Kashmir is a former princely state in the north of the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayas, now partitioned between India, Pakistan and China. A very mountainous country, to the north it borders the Karakorum massif. Indus River, originating in neighbouring Tibet, crosses Kashmir south-east to north-west.

The name “Kashmir”, or sometimes “Historic Kashmir”, encompasses the entire former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which existed between 1846 and 1952. Quite a diverse territory in terms of its human composition, Kashmir is divided into six main sectors
· Three of them fall under Indian control, namely the Kashmir Valley (of Kashmiri ethnic majority and Muslim), Jammu (mostly Dogra and Punjabi and mainly Hindu by religion) and Ladakh (of ethnic Tibetan majority and Buddhist and Muslim religion). The two former make up the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, while the latter forms the Union Territory of Ladakh.

· Another two sectors are under control of Pakistan: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (both containing a range of diverse Muslim majority peoples), each of them being a first-level administrative division of Pakistan.

· The sixth sector, under the control of China, is made up by the mostly depopulated area of Aksai Chin and Transkarakoram, which is administered as being a part of Xinjiang Uigur (East Turkestan).

The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was created in the mid-19th century after an agreement between the United Kingdom and the prince of Jammu. The territory remained an associate state of British India until 1947, when the United Kingdom approved the subcontinent’s partition into two new sovereign countries: India and Pakistan. Although the majority of the population of the princely state was Muslim, the sovereign of Jammu and Kashmir, maharaja Hari Singh, decided to merge his state with India. Pakistan did not accept, and the first India-Pakistan war broke out (1947-1948). As a result, the territory of the former princely state became divided between both belligerents, to this day. In the 1950s, China made effective its control over Aksai Chin, a situation that has been kept until today.

At the end of the 1980s, a revolt against India broke out in the Kashmir Valley which, with periods of more or less intensity, has remained until today.

(Note: the flag at the top of this page is that of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (1952-2019). On the Azad Kashmir flag, see here; on the Ladakh flag, see here.)


Kashmir is a linguistically diverse country, which is particularly true of Gilgit-Baltistan. The language with the most speakers is Kashmiri, predominantly in the Kashmir Valley and in some parts of Jammu. Despite being the most widespread language, it does not enjoy deep implementation in the educational system. Other languages spoken in different parts of Kashmir are Pahari, Dogri, Ladakhi, Shina, Balti and Hindko.

Urdu is the only official language in Pakistan-controlled sectors. Since 2020, in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir five official languages are recognised: Urdu, English, Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi. In Ladakh, the official languages are English and Hindi.

Politics and government

Except for Aksai Chin, the entire territory of historical Kashmir is included in sub-state administrative entities having their own popularly elected assemblies or councils. None of them, though, enjoys legislative self-government as of 2022.

1. India

1.1. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is headed by a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the President of India, who has the power to pass ordinances (local laws). The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly is expected by Indian authorities to be operational by 2023 after an election. The legislature is expected to be allowed to pass laws within the limits of the Indian Constitution.

Alongside the Indian unionist parties, Kashmiri parties also exist, which can be divided into two main currents: pro-autonomy and pro-independence. The main pro-autonomy parties are allied since 2019 under the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), which demands the restoration of autonomy. This alliance includes, among other parties, the JKNC, the PDP and the JKPC. Pro-independence parties have been organized since 1993 into a broad coalition, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), which has different factions within. Some in the coalition advocate the establishment of an independent Kashmir, while others want to join Pakistan. It is currently in a very weak situation. Several pro-independence armed groups also exist, some of them linked to Pakistan.

Opinion polls made in the 21st century have shown that a solid pro-independence majority exists in the Kashmir Valley.

1.2. The Union Territory of Ladakh has no legislature. It also has a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the President of India. Laws for Ladakh are passed by the Indian central authorities. Ladakh is subdivides into two districts: Kargil, which encompasses the  the Shi’a Muslim majority area, and Leh, the Buddhist-majority area. Each of the two districts has a measure of executive autonomy on some issues, managed by the Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council and the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council.

Until 2019, the two union territories formed a single federal state of India, with special autonomy status, which was revoked by the Indian government.

2. Pakistan

Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan have their own elected assemblies —the Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly and the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly— which in practice have a degree of autonomy similar to that of a municipality. Most issues are controlled directly by the government of Pakistan. Political activities deemed as being against Pakistan’s official policy of annexation of Kashmir are restricted. Besides, the pro-sovereignty movement of Gilgit-Baltistan is being suppressed.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, the Democatic Alliance regards the territory as Pakistani-occupied and demands the implementation of real self-government; some sectors demand the establishment of an independent state.

(Last updated November 2022.)